Feast of Joseph Sittler (September 27)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Middle Oconee River at Ben Burton Park, Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, December 8, 2019

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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JOSEPH A. SITTLER, SR. (SEPTEMBER 26, 1904-DECEMBER 28, 1987)

U.S. Lutheran Minister, Theologian, and Ecumenist

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Increasing distance from the natural world…has almost stripped us of the possibility to talk of ourselves in relation to God’s creation.

–Joseph A. Sittler, quoted in G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006), 438

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Joseph A. Sittler, Sr., comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via A Year with American Saints (2006).

The overlapping circles of ecology and theology have become increasingly prominent in the age of heightened awareness of Global Warming, Environmental Racism, and other ecology-related matters of human creation and contribution.  Sittler was a pioneer in ecological theology as early as the 1950s. 

Our saint, born in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, on September 26, 1904, was a son of Minnie Sittler and Lutheran minister Joseph Sittler.  Young Joseph graduated from Wittenberg College then from Hanna Divinity School, Springfield, Ohio.  He also studied theology at Oberlin College, Case Western Reserve, The University of Chicago, and the University of Heidelberg.

Sittler, ordained in the United Lutheran Church in America (ULCA) in 1930, spent most of his career as an academic.  However, she spent 13 years (1930-1943) as the pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church, Cleveland, Ohio.  Then our saint taught at Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminary (1943-1957) and The University of Chicago Divinity School (1957-1973).  He was also one of the most prominent theologians and sought-after college and university preachers in the United States of America.  

God is interested in a lot of things besides religion.

–Sittler, in Gravity and Grace:  Reflections and Provocations (1986)

Sittler had many interests besides religion, too.  He wrote about theology, ecology, literature, classical music, jazz, and aging, among other topics, in eight books and many articles.  And our saint taught that the reverent care of creation is a central concern in Christianity–or ought to be.  He was also active in the World Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches.

Sittler was a warm person.  He had a fine sense of humor, knew literature well, related well and easily to many types of people, and enjoyed beer and Polish sausage.  He and wife Jeanne (d. 1991), a musician and a composer, raised six children–four sons and two daughters.

Sittler, aged 83 years, died in Chicago on December 28, 1987.

Sittler once preached:

A world sacramentally received is a world sanely used.

Do we–the human race–believe that?  Apparently not, based on how we have been treating the planet for a long time.  

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SEBASTIAN CASTELLIO, PROPHET OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

THE FEAST OF CHRISTOPHER WORDSWORTH, HYMN WRITER AND ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LINCOLN

THE FEAST OF ELLEN GATES STARR, U.S. EPISCOPALIAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC SOCIAL ACTIVIST AND REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA JOSEFA SANCHO DE GUERRA, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SERVANTS OF JESUS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL RODIGAST, GERMAN LUTHERAN ACADEMIC AND HYMN WRITER

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Beautiful Creator, you open your hand to satisfy the needs of every living creature:

Make us always thankful for your loving providence,

and grant that we, remembering the account we must one day give,

may be faithful stewards of your abundance,

for the benefit of the whole creation;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom all things were made,

and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 Kings 4:29-30, 33-34

Psalm 145:1-7, 22

Acts 17:24-31

John 1:1-5,. 9-14

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 731

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