Dear Members and Friends of St. John,
Somewhere during the first part of October, Alaska Permanent Fund Dividends will be delivered to the bank accounts of hundreds of thousands of Alaskans. You Alaskans know how this works. When the constitution of Alaska was drafted in the 1950’s, it asserted that the resources of Alaska belong to the people of Alaska. Though, how this principle is put into practice can be sticky. When the oil fields opened up in the 1970’s, funds flowed from oil taxes into the state budget. Through wranglings in the legislature and in the courts the Permanent Fund became part of the Alaska constitution in 1976 under Governor Jay Hammond. Each year since 1982 each registered Alaskan resident has received a payment. The first payment in 1982 for each Alaskan resident was $1000.00. The lowest payment occurred in 1984 of $331.29 per person. The highest payment made was $2072.00 in 2015. (While I knew some of this information, I went to Wikipedia for the details I used. I hope it is accurate.)
Outsiders, those not living in Alaska, think Alaskans must be flush with all these payments of oil funds. However, they don’t know of the higher cost of living and other challenges of living in the last frontier, such as travel. Those outside Alaska also do not know how many people have plans for the PFD of each Alaskan. How many commercials have you heard so far suggesting you buy a vehicle, buy furniture, buy electronics, buy a new snowmachine, or some other item with your money? How many worthwhile organizations have suggested you donate part or all of your Permanent Fund check to their cause? The Alaskan economy does see a jump every year when the PFD comes out. But, Alaskan citizens run a gauntlet around everyone else who wants part of their checks.
So, as a child of God, how have you used your Permanent Fund Dividends? How do you plan to use your dividend this year? I have heard some Alaskans say, “It’s my money, keep your hands off!” Actually, I understand that reaction with all the appeals Alaskans face for these dividends.
Pastor Ron Martinson of Central Lutheran Church in Anchorage used to suggest just the opposite. I heard him say something like, “I didn’t earn this check. It’s a gift from God. I give it all to the church. You should too.”
When she was alive and attending worship, long-time St. John member June Liebing used to stand up in worship and share her thoughts. (June was born in Sitka in August of 1921, and moved to the Valley with her dad in 1932, before the days of the Matanuska Colony.) June would stand up and encourage others in worship with words like these. “These checks come from the oil in the ground in Alaska. God made the earth. He put the oil in the ground. These checks are gifts from God. I encourage you to tithe (give 10%) off your PFD to the church.” June backed up her words with her actions.
My wife and I have followed the suggestion of June and tithed to God’s work in our congregation off our Permanent Fund Dividends each year. When, our children were home, we then put all their remaining dividends into an educational account to save for college, or other future expenses. When our children came to the time for leaving home, then there were funds available that helped them. Kathy and I have personally used our funds to pay bills (often medical bills), to travel, and to put into savings.
So you might think I will have a suggestion for how you will use your dividend this year. Actually, I simply ask that you think and pray as you receive this dividend, which truly is a gift. There are some principles however, which apply to all actions of stewardship by God’s children.
First, we are only stewards, or managers, of the all the resources of time and talent and treasure which we have. Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;” God created the world and its inhabitants. As Creator, all really belongs to God! We are called to be faithful managers of the resources of God in our lives.
Second, God gives us everything we need through His creative love and through His saving love. Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount that God takes care of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, and He also provides for us. Therefore, we should trust God to provide, and not worry. (Matthew 6:25-33) But, Paul shares how, in Jesus, God has provided grace for our lives. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9) Jesus left the riches of heaven to take on the poverty and the suffering and death of this world. Jesus sacrificed so that we might receive the riches of heaven through faith in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus. All of life is, therefore, an opportunity to respond to the grace of God which we receive in Jesus!
Finally, God wants us to give all the offerings and sacrifices we make willingly and cheerfully from the heart, as people who know the underserved love and blessings we receive from in Jesus. Perhaps the best summary of the many verses that speak about God’s desire for how we use and manage the gifts He gives is found in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
So, as an Alaskan, and as a child of God, how will you use this gift which HE provides?
A Child of God, Seeking to be Faithful in Responding to God’s Grace,
P.S. I have been noticing the disappearance of apples and vegetable recently. On Tuesday, September 18, my daughter, Mary, caught a picture of the culprits at 7:00 a.m. as she was going to work.
P.P.S. I did go salmon fishing, probably for the last time this year, on Monday, September 24. We caught quite a few salmon, but did not keep any. Therefore, no pictures of that beautiful fall day.
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.