The name Thomas has always held a special place in my heart. In fact, it was my chosen name while I was still growing in my mother’s womb. Yet, complications during the birth delivery compelled the name to be changed to honor the physician who saved my life. Walter Marcel Stillger, M.D., who had a local Hicksville family practice, would deliver this child into the world and be immediately informed by his patient that the child would be named in his honor. Although mom advised him that she would switch the order of his first and middle name (which was also shortened, explaining the “c” in Marc), he decided otherwise and proudly filed the original birth certificate name order identical to his own. Although the official record was ultimately amended, my family doctor always called me Walter Marcel throughout my childhood. His office medical files on me were listed that way as well.
Even if the doctor and I didn’t have exact names, we were connected. However, it was another connection that contributed to the name change. That one wasn’t identical either; it was fraternal. I was supposed to be named Thomas because the name means “twin.” I was born alongside a fraternal twin sister, a double birth which contributed to the critical health situation.
Whether called Marc Walter or Walter Marcel, I never carried the name Thomas. That name has always been popular. The Social Security Administration lists Thomas as the ninth most popular male name in the last century. During the first part of the century, it ranked in the top ten annually for new baby names. In 1952, 48,648 new Thomas’s entered the nation, the most of any year. Waning in popularity in recent years, the name is still within the top 50 rankings.
Nevertheless, the name remains significant to me. You can imagine how overjoyed I was to learn that my first grandchild was named Thomas. He received the name I never did. I’ve also been drawn to others with that name. I guess it comes as no surprise that my favorite disciple is Thomas. Nor should you be shocked that I am a big defender of his reputation – I bristle at the label “Doubting Thomas.” He was among our Lord’s most ardent supporters.
This Sunday, the Gospel message about the resurrection appearances of Jesus shares his experience with Thomas. We invite you to hear this message at worship on Sunday, April 16, at 8:00 AM (spoken), 10:15 AM (traditional), or 6:00 PM (jazz). You can name your experience.