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From the Desk of Bishop DAVID                            Around the Diocese
Nativity Message of Bishop David

Nativity of Our Lord, 2017

His Grace, the Rt. Rev. David, Bishop of Sitka and Alaska

Every year we come to this time of the year and repeat those wonderful words that “God is with us, understand all ye nations and submit yourself, for God is with us.”  Our world has been in turmoil for quite some time now, and we can feel very much alone and even abandoned.  In general and despite all our technological advances, we seem to talk less to each other and know less about each other.  In other words, we seem to be more isolated, even when sitting next to each other.  Go to any airport lounge and you will see most people staring intently at their phone and oblivious to those around them.

But we need not feel so alone.  Our God is trying to reach out to us and offers to us His Only-begotten Son for our salvation.  We have only to respond to this gift by our participation in the coming of Christ through the Incarnation.  The opportunity we have for this is the celebration of His Nativity, God coming to us as a child from the womb.  Like any newborn child, He was incapable of speech, unable to care for himself, or even to move about with the aid of his Holy Mother and Earthly Father.  He was immediately put in danger and could have been slaughtered with the other innocents around Bethlehem except for the vision given to Joseph.  Only once He reached about thirty years of age did He truly begin His ministry and give His message of salvation to all humanity.  So why this attention to His birth?  Why does the Gospel of Matthew and that of Luke give us a clear narrative of His early years?  Why do shepherds leave their flocks and Wise Men from the East make such an effort to see this Babe in swaddling clothes?  Why is Herod so concerned about this little child’s birth?  Why is there a sign in the heavens to follow, or angels singing about his birth?

We can find the answer in the Exapostilarion of Christmas.  In it is this phrase:

We, who were in darkness and shadow have found the Truth, for the Lord is born of the Virgin.

Despite all the attention paid to the significance of a baby born for our salvation; despite all the beautiful hymns and Christmas songs we enjoy and like to sing, there is more here than just a miraculous birth.  There is the discovery of Truth.  What can be more important than that?  What can mean more to us as persons than finding the truth.  We are all made uneasy when we realize that what we have been told is not the truth; whether it comes from a friend, a family member, a neighbor, our employer or our government, if we are troubled when we realize that what we have been told is not necessarily the truth.  In fact, it is difficult to even function properly if we do not know the truth.  In Christ, that is no longer an issue for He is the Truth, and the Way and the Life for all of us.  Nothing should be more important to us than the discovery that we can live a life in truthfulness if it is centered on Christ.

Truly, that is the most important gift we receive in the Incarnation of Christ.  The gift of the Truth for all to hear, to believe and to receive.  To guide us and help us to know that God is offering to us the truth of Salvation in Jesus Christ.  It begins here, in our visit to Bethlehem and a manger in a cave where we become the new witnesses to the beginning of our salvation by an Infant that is at the same time, God Incarnate.

I pray that all of the Orthodox Faithful of Alaska will renew their life in Christ at the manger this Nativity and discover the Truth of God for all of us.  May God grant you all a most blessed Nativity and Joyous and healthy New Year.

Your servant of Servants,

+ David, Bishop of Sitka and Alaska

Tithing Presentation
Sowing Our Tithe
A Homily on II Cor. 9:6-11

 

By Bishop David of Sitka and Alaska

Today you heard St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians, telling them the one who sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully shall reap bountifully.  What is it about the Corinthians that caused St. Paul to talk to them this way?  What point is he trying to make to them?  Were they farmers that needed to grow more crops?  Were they rich financiers from which he wanted money?  We know that St. Paul had so many problems with the Corinthian Church that his two of his longest Epistles are written to them.  Corinth was a city free from persecution, it had pagan temples, its Christians were weak spiritually; they were surrounded by people of greed, lust, drunkenness, polytheism, freethought and divisiveness.  In short, it wasn’t that different from the land we live in today.

St. Paul had asked them at different times to help raise money for the suffering church in Jerusalem.  Because of its status and freedom, it was also wealthy and capable of helping others, if taught to do so.  So it is that we have this revealing passage on his thoughts on the relationship between giving and God’s response.

It is simply stated, but true.  It is stated in a way that shows the relationship between the giving and receiving in Faith, and it tells us how it is to be done by all of us.

When we give to God, we are not just giving something away.  We are not exchanging one type of bounty for another.  We are not doing something because we are looking for a reward, although we could, in reality be doing all of these things.  St. Paul makes it clear we should be doing so with real joy, cheerfully,  because we want to, and for no other reason.  Orthodoxy does not believe in the so-called “Prosperity Gospel”, the belief held by many of the televangelists that if you give them what they ask you will be highly rewarded in a financial way.  If fact, St. Paul is careful to present his idea about giving in a way that demonstrates the way our Creator has always operated in relation to his creation.

He uses the term “sowing”, a farming term related to how a farmer plants his seeds to collect a crop in the fullness of time.  As anyone knows who has ever been around farming, your yield from the seeds you plant is directly related to the quantity of seeds you put into the ground.  In a given area of ground, a farmer knows how many pounds of seeds he needs to have a good crop yield.  He also knows that if he skimps on the seeds, he’ll be looking at a poor harvest, but if he plants liberally, his chances of a bumper crop are much greater.

But the farmer also knows that it is not just the amount of seeds he puts into the ground, it is type of soil, the amount of rainfall, the warmth or coolness of the climate all are factors in the outcome.  We may ask what has this to do with giving money to God?  We find the answer in the further explanation that St. Paul when he states everyone has to give as he “purposes in his heart”, meaning as he intends to give because he has looked at all the needs around him and made a good choice.  Its not just in giving the money away, its giving it away for the right reasons at the right time.  And even more than that, it must be done cheerfully.  In other words, we should receive joy in the act of giving. 

When the farmer plants his seeds in the spring, he has no idea how wet or dry the summer will be, nor how warm or cool the weather will be, all he knows is that each time he did this in the past, he received his crops in their time.  He realizes that if he lets the seeds remain in the sacks he will have no crop, he has to put his faith in the way God works, the way the seeds, the soil, the water and the wind work together to receive his reward in its time.

All of this brings us to our current situation we find ourselves in.  God has given all of us a great amount of “seeds” for our benefit.  We can use them however we want, we received it freely for one reason, we are citizens of Alaska.  Nowhere else in the United States is there such an act of honor placed on its citizens.  We didn't put the oil in the ground, nor did we create the oil companies that harvested the oil, we didn’t even formulate the system from which we receive this bounty.  Only our act of being born, or moving to, Alaska made this possible for us.  We can be thankful for a good governor, like Jay Hammond, and a legislature that had the foresight to make this possible, but in the end, it is almost entirely an act of God that has given us this gift. 

So, seeing how little we have actually done to receive it, should we not be willing, with joy in our heart, return back to God a portion of what we have received?  Is it not in our interest and for our own benefit that we should be willing to over back to God from this seed that is ours to plant for our own future, the same way that our state planted those first oil revenues as seeds for growth, so that they would multiply and make this blessing possible? 

Beloved, with joy in our heart, let us plant the seed of faith, and do so not grudgingly, but cheerfully, so that we will be able to see the fruit of our efforts in due time.  Let St. Paul’s prayer for the Corinthians be his prayer for us, and “May He who supplies the seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the sedd you have sown and increase the fruits of your won righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.

Thank you, God, for the PFD

What follows is a posting on FaceBook by the Dean of the Kuskokwim Deanery and Rector of St. James Church in Napaskiak, Fr. Vasily Fisher.  It is well written, concise, and to the point.  I pray we all heed his words and pledge a tenth of our PFD to our local Church.

Greeting in the Lord!

Today, and soon we all, will begin to be blessed with a free gift which is given to us each year, the PFD. It is a gift that we do not work to receive. It is a gift that is a blessing from the State of Alaska, and a blessing from God.
This is a rather touchy subject to write about but we need to remember that as Baptized Christians, tithing is what we do. Tithing is part of who we are. The scriptures speak of giving back to God that which is His. If we are Christians, we tithe. It's that simple. We give to God out of the joy of our hearts, give back to God with thankfulness for all the blessings He gives to us.

2 Corinthians 31.5 - "As soon as the command was spread abroad, the people of Israel gave in abundance the first fruit of grain, wine, oil, honey, and of all the produce of the field. And they brought in abundantly the tithe of everything."

Leviticus 27.30 - "Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or the fruit of the trees, is the Lord's; it is holy to the Lord."

We all as baptized Christians tithe: Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Readers, Choir, those who work in the church, and all laity. We all give back to God ten percent of what He blesses us with. It is an opportunity to feel the joy of giving back to God with faith and love. In this day and age, it is God who we must remember first, for the sake of our loved ones and our children, so that they too may know the true JOY of giving back to God as Abel did in the old testament.

Genesis 4:3-5 - "In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell."

Let us all joyfully give as Abel did, in thankfulness and prayer because that is who we are - Christians who give back to God. ALL of us. From this joyful giving our loved ones and children WILL learn about the joy of giving back to God. Glory to Jesus Christ!


From the Desk of Fr. David



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Diocese of Sitka & Alaska
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