Sermon: Eva Lee Matthews

Eva Lee Matthews was born in 1862. Her father was a US Senator who would later go on to become a Supreme Court justice. She was a debutante. It would seem such a life would have created another woman of society; however, the Lord had different plans for Eva and she was obedient to God’s call.

She was a devout Episcopalian and for a number of years served the poor in Omaha, Nebraska and Cincinnati, Ohio. However she and a coworker, in 1898, did something quite remarkable: they founded a new religious order within the Episcopal Church: The Community of the Transfiguration. It was a house that was to be based in the lives of Mary and Martha. Mother Eva Mary, as she came to be known, believed that the Christian was to be a servant of God and that the light of Christ should flow through them. She once said, “The vision of the King is his beauty and is given that the light may shine through us and guide others to know, love, and glorify him.”

She was fond of writing short poems, one of which she wrote shortly after she and her friend took their final vows of profession.

Life for Life—Yea, Lord, so let it be,
My life for Thine as Thine was given for me,
How could I think a lesser gift to bring,
Some broken, useless, fragmentary thing?

Nay, let it be the perfect crystal, Lord,
Offered up whole, unbroken, and unmarred,
No part kept back for self or sin or strife,
But laid at Thy feet, the full price of a life.

Men see the work which is the outer shell,
The humble vessel, be it ill or well,
That holds the life elixir for a space
‘Ere it be poured from its discarded vase.

They only see the outside of the cup,
Thou seest within the Life that’s offered up.
The heart of love in penitence immersed
Drink, Lord of Life, and quench Thy loving thirst.

In our gospel reading today, the woman in Bethany anointed Jesus body. It was to prepare him for his burial that was to come. Speaking of her, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

There are many men and women throughout the world, like the woman in Bethany and Mother Eva Mary, who go quietly about the business of serving Jesus. They don’t ask for recognition or accolades, but they are remembered by God. They hand themselves over to God’s will and ask to be used by him in whatever manner he chooses. We can all learn from them.

In our Saints Book Club we are reading In this House of Brede. Early on, one of the nuns tells another, “What is really apostolic, what really speeds God’s glory, is not the time given to work, but the holiness of the worker.” That too is our calling whether in great ways known by all or the simple quiet ways of serving a single soul. In either case, we serve Jesus by serving them and the glory of God, the holiness of God is revealed to others through our works, and it draws them into closer relationship with their Savior.

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