In a recent post, Earl Creps, professor at AGTS, said he was throwing out all his files of sermon illustrations. Creps said we used to think of information (including sermon illustrations) as commodities — they were scarce, hard to find, and needed to be saved. Now, however, Earl suggests we view information like we do our utilities — electricity and water. They’re always available, always plentiful, and easily accessible. Pretty interesting concept. So in the interest of illustrations as utilities, let me share one with you that I used last Sunday.
It’s the story of Catherine Doherty, a missional thinker and doer long before the term missional was coined. Catherine was founder of Madonna House, a lay monastic community in Canada. Doherty, born in Russia in 1896, was raised by devout parents in the Russian Orthodox Church. As a young girl, her father was posted to Egypt in his government position, and Catherine attended a Catholic school there.
After a harrowing escape from Russian communists during World War I, and a failed marriage, Catherine and her son found work and success in New York where Catherine became a well-known and highly paid lecturer. But, Catherine’s spiritual upbringing and love for God called out to her. She gave up her salary of $20,000 per year (a phenomenal sum for a woman in the 1920s and 30s), her car, her servants, and posh New York apartment to move to Toronto to work among the slums of that city.
Catherine continued to correspond with her well-t0-do friends from her days in New York, and in a reply to a letter from her friend Alice, Catherine provides a moving example of what it means to see with the eyes of Christ. Her letter is a published work, posted on the Madonna House website, so in respect for their copyright, I suggest you click the link here to read the letter. I was moved to tears the first time I read it, and then again as I tried to read it to my congregation. I hope her letter finds a meaningful place in your life, and sermons as well.