From the Dean

News items, published articles, and reading recommendations from Dean Timothy George




The Dean Recommends: Mother Teresa’s letter to a young bride

By Tom Hoopes
August 29, 2016

Mother Teresa couldn’t make it to my wedding, so she dropped us a quick note to share what she would have said if she were there.

Actually, it was my wife, April, who invited her. She also invited the president and the pope. George and Barbara Bush sent a mass-produced card. The Vatican sent a blessing. But Mother Teresa sent us a personal response, a typed page with at least one mistake (an “s” is typed over with an “a”) and which she signed at the bottom.

In these days leading up to her canonization, much attention is being paid to the big, grand moments of Mother Teresa’s life (at my day job, Benedictine College is going big for her). But for us, this intimate contact with her is what means most.

What she wrote to us comes directly from her own biography.

“Welcome children into your wedlock and help them grow up to be the sunshine of God’s love in your family and in your neighborhood,” she said.

This is exactly what her dad did for her. “Her father was very much a role model. He had a big influence on her,” an Albanian diplomat who knew her and mutual friends told the Washington Post.

“My little daughter,” her dad told her as a child, “always share even the least bit of food you have with others, especially with the poor. Selfishness is a disease of the spirit that turns us into servants of our riches.” Read the rest at Aleteia.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Wednesday, September 28, 2016
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The Dean Recommends: “Incardiated” Truth

By Dillon T. Thornton
September 26, 2016

In Matt 13:1-23 Jesus tells the Parable of the Sower.

This is a parable about spreading the gospel. The sower in the story represents the messenger, the communicator. The seed is the message, the truth. If someone told this parable today it probably would go something like this. Four sowers went out to sow. Four preachers went out to preach. The first was decidedly boring. He quoted dead guys. He used theological jargon. Everyone in the audience fell asleep. The second preacher was a little better. At least he traded in the old KJV for a newer translation. But his sermon was too long, far, far too long. This is the twenty-first century; we’re used to commercial breaks and Twitter. If you want to keep our attention, get your sermon as close as possible to 140 characters. The third preacher almost had us with his wonderful stories, but he could have used an occasional joke. The mood needs to stay light; we’re not looking for anything too serious. After all, this is church. The fourth guy was good. Easy on the eyes. Conversational delivery. Multiple references to pop culture. Jokes. Stories. Sprinkle in a little Bible. And all in 7 minutes! This guy had us ready to sign on the dotted line.

Satire aside, if told by a church leadership expert today, the emphasis in the parable probably would be on the sower, the communicator: this type of presentation will virtually guarantee these results. I don’t mean to suggest that sermon preparation and delivery are unimportant. In most cases, the difference between bad sermons and good sermons is the preparation of the preacher. But when Jesus tells the Parable of the Sower he is getting at something altogether different. As he tells the story, there is only one sower. The one sower scatters seed on four types of soil, and he gets different results, mostly negative results. In Jesus’ version of the story, the problem is not the communicator, nor is it the message; the problem is the soil, which represents the human heart. Only the seed that falls on the final soil, the “good soil,” takes root and produces an abundance of fruit. We see in the other type of soil something that appears for a while to be a positive result, but it does not last. The parable provides a sober reminder that even the most enthusiastic outward response to the gospel is no guarantee that a person is a genuine follower of Christ. For Jesus, a profession of faith must be accompanied by perseverance in the faith. And it is only when the word penetrates the heart of the hearer that he or she will persevere. As one of my favorite theologians says, “Words are impotent unless and until hearers take them in and give them a home. The word must be taken to heart: ‘incardiated’” (Vanhoozer, Faith Speaking Understanding).

How does the truth find a home in the heart? Read the rest at the Mindful of God blog.

Posted by Hunter Upton at Monday, September 26, 2016
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The Dean Recommends: The Reason Why America Burned Spurgeon’s Sermons and Sought to Kill Him

By Christian George
September 22, 2016

Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation 154 years ago today, promising liberty to some 3 million enslaved black men and women.

Charles Spurgeon also fought the evils of slavery:

“[The] hope of deliverance seemed far away, it was God that gave an Abraham Lincoln, who led the nation onward till ‘Emancipation’ flamed upon its banners” (MTP 29:243).

Spurgeon exchanged correspondences with Frederick Douglas, received former slaves into his Pastors’ College and pulpit, and condemned slavery in his sermons and media articles:

“I do from my inmost soul detest slavery . . . and although I commune at the Lord’s table with men of all creeds, yet with a slave-holder I have no fellowship of any sort or kind. Whenever one has called upon me, I have considered it my duty to express my detestation of his wickedness, and I would as soon think of receiving a murderer into my church . . . as a man stealer” (Pike, The Life and Work of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, p. 331).

How did America respond to Spurgeon’s abolition?

Here are a few published comments from different parts of the country:

Florida:  Spurgeon is a “beef-eating, puffed-up, vain, over-righteous pharisaical, English blab-mouth.”

“A Southern Opinion of the Rev. Mr. Spurgeon,” The New York Herald (March 1, 1860). Read the rest at The Spurgeon Center.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Thursday, September 22, 2016
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