“What’s going on here?” — a favorite
question of Sittler’s at the beginning of a sermon, referring to the
text which had just been read. He believed it was the preacher’s job to
probe the meaning of the text, to “fight it,” and then to relate it to
the present-day situation, to the person in the pew.
He said, “There have been certain continuing
obediences in my preaching: Listen to what the text says. Study it in
the context of the total utterance. Take the text beyond the text.”
Sittler agreed with Paul Ricoeur that the written text takes on a life
of its own.
Sittler preached in many different
settings — to congregations, in seminaries, in colleges and
universities. He understood that the role of the preacher in an academic
setting was different from that of a parish pastor. In his Introduction
to Care of the Earth and Other University Sermons, he wrote, “The
collegiate generation has its own specifiable character. Awareness of
that character suggests how to make useful choices among many
possibilities for content, and suggests also how to form content for
“Preaching in a college confronts the
following facts: 1) A college is not a church; a college congregation is
seldom a fellowship of believers. 2) Preaching in a college must be
related to life in its most openly problematic aspects.
“After thirty years of preaching to
students I am still trying to learn how to do it effectively.”
We are fortunate that many of Sittler’s
sermons and meditations delivered in those various settings are
available to us.
A sample of materials on Sermons and
available from the Archives
Sermon on Romans VIII (Augustana Church,
Chicago), Audiotape (7/13, 20, 27/75)
Maundy Thursday and
Easter Sermons (Augustana Church,
Chicago), Audiotape (3/27, 30/75)
See also The Care of the Earth, Fortress Press Facets Series, 2004,
The Care of the Earth and Other University Sermons, published by
Fortress Press, 1964.