Archive for September 2015

Fidelity and Factions   1 comment

Ruins of Corinth

Above:  Ruins of Corinth

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-00671

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The Collect:

Lord God, source of every blessing,

you showed forth your glory and led many to faith by the works of your Son,

who brought gladness and salvation to his people.

Transform us by the Spirit of his love,

that we may find our life together in him,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Song of Songs 4:1-8 (Tuesday)

Song of Songs 4:9-5:1 (Wednesday)

Psalm 145 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 1:3-17 (Tuesday)

Luke 5:33-39 (Wednesday)

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The Lord draws near to all who summon him,,

to all who summon him in sincerity.

For his worshippers he does all they could wish for,

he hears their cry for help and saves them.

–Psalm 145:18-19, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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They should, therefore, dwell in unity and mutual respect, I suppose, but the opposite is true much of the time.

Two of the three readings contain references to disputes.  (The lovers in the Song of Songs are in harmony with each other.)  The question of fasting–that some people do it and others do not–arises in Luke 5.  And in 1 Corinthians, that community’s notorious factionalism is at issue.  Such divisiveness probably arose from well-intentioned attempts to discern and to act in accordance with the will of God and to hold to correct theology; that is my most charitable guess.  However, again and again we human beings have proven ourselves capable of fouling up while trying to do the right thing.  Then opinions become tribal boundaries.  The result is an unholy mess.

The truth is, of course, that there is such a thing as objective reality, and that each of us is right about some details of it and wrong about others.  Laying competing fundamentalisms aside and acknowledging a proper degree of ambiguity (in what Calvinist theology labels matters indifferent) is a fine strategy for working toward peace and faithful community.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE CHURCH OF SOUTH INDIA, 1947

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/09/27/devotion-for-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Grace, Demanding Faithful Responses, Part II   1 comment

Burning Embers

Above:  Live Coals

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Lord God, source of every blessing,

you showed forth your glory and led many to faith by the works of your Son,

who brought gladness and salvation to his people.

Transform us by the Spirit of his love,

that we may find our life together in him,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 54:1-8

Psalm 145

Romans 12:9-21

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That sentiment fits well within the contexts of the previous post and this one.  In readings for both God takes a people back–idolatrous Hebrews in Jeremiah and Hebrew exiles (soon to return to their ancestral homeland) in Isaiah.

Such generosity calls for faithful responses to God.  One category of such responses covers how we treat each other.  The excellent advice in Romans 12:9-21 fits neatly under the heading of the Golden Rule.  St. Paul the Apostle’s counsel acknowledges total human dependence on God, human dependence on other people, and responsibility to and for others in society.  It also contains a corrective measure against vengeance, one of the most powerful emotions.

The world would be a better place if more people were to seek common ground, respect others, and forgo repaying evil for evil.  What we humans do matters.  Often, when we think we are behaving righteously, our sinful deeds and attitudes belie that illusion.  One might, for example, commit a violent act against a person whom one thinks has wronged one.  That other person might indeed be in the wrong, but so is the perpetrator of the violence if the motive is revenge.  Two wrongs do not make a right.

May we hold fast to the good, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE CHURCH OF SOUTH INDIA, 1947

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/09/27/devotion-for-monday-after-the-second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Grace, Demanding Faithful Responses, Part I   1 comment

Death of Simon Magus

Above:  The Death of Simon Magus

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Lord God, source of every blessing,

you showed forth your glory and led many to faith by the works of your Son,

who brought gladness and salvation to his people.

Transform us by the Spirit of his love,

that we may find our life together in him,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 3:1-5 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 3:19-25 (Friday)

Jeremiah 4:1-4 (Saturday)

Psalm 36:5-10 (All Days)

Acts 8:18-24 (Thursday)

1 Corinthians 7:1-7 (Friday)

Luke 11:14-23 (Saturday)

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Like a generous host you give them their fill of good food from your larder.

From your lovely streams which bring such pleasure you give them water to drink.

–Psalm 36:9, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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That is true, of course, so idolatry is especially galling.  Marriage, a literal matter in 1 Corinthians 7, is a metaphor in Jeremiah 3 and 4, where whoring becomes a metaphor for idolatry.  A relationship with God is intimate, this language tells us.

One of the themes in the Gospel of Mark, no part of which we read today, is that those who think they are insiders might actually be outsiders.  That theme applies to our Lord and Savior’s accusers in Luke 11; he was never in league with evil.  The fact that a person who knew Jesus could not recognize that reality speaks badly of that individual.  Jesus was no more in league with evil than Simon Magus could purchase the Holy Spirit, the offer to do which led to a quotable rebuke:

May your silver be lost for ever, and you with it, for you think that money could buy what God has given for nothing!  You have no share, no part, in this:  God can see how your heart is warped.  Repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the LORD that this scheme of yours may be forgiven; it is plain to me that you are held in the bitterness of gall and the chains of sin.

–Acts 8:20b-23, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

From that incident came the word “simony.”

Grace is free yet not cheap.  We can never purchase or earn it, but we can respond favorably to it.  Grace demands concrete evidence of its presence, as measured in deeds, which flow from attitudes.  Do we love our neighbors as we love ourselves?  I prefer that standard to any Pietistic list of legalistic requirements.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE CHURCH OF SOUTH INDIA, 1947

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/09/27/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Justice   1 comment

Eyes

Above:  Eyes

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you anointed Jesus at his baptism with the Holy Spirit

and revealed him as your beloved Son.

Keep all who are born of water and the Spirit faithful in your service,

that we may rejoice to be called children of God,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 27:1-11

Psalm 106:1-12

Luke 11:33-36

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Happy are those who uphold justice,

who do what is right on every occasion.

–Psalm 106:2, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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The reference to human eyes in Luke 11:33-36 might prove confusing.  The assumption regarding eyes in that text was one common to the Hellenistic world in which the Gospel According to Luke originated.  That assumption was that one’s inner darkness or light shone in the eyes.  The concern of the text, therefore, is one’s inner life.  Does light or darkness dominate?  As Jesus said elsewhere in the Gospels, that darkness which comes from within a person, not that darkness which enters one from outside, defiles one.

The reading from Numbers 27 refers to the rebellion of Korah against Moses in Chapter 16.  The perspective of the Book of Numbers is that Moses was God’s anointed, so to oppose Moses was to resist God.  Numbers 16:31-35 describes the unfortunate fate of those rebels.  Among those followers was Zelophehad, who had only female heirs.  Other ancient cultures in the region had liberal inheritance laws permitting women to inherit even when male heirs existed.  Ancient Israel was an especially patriarchal society, though, so an exception benefiting women, such as the daughters of Zelophehad, came into being.

Standards of justice are concrete, for particular cases define them.  Does one seek to do the right thing?  Does one succeed in that goal?  Or does one create or perpetuate injustice?  How one treats vulnerable people is a fine standard of justice.

SEPTEMBER 22, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN CAMPBELL SHAIRP, SCOTTISH POET AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF PHILANDER CHASE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS OF VILLANOVA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF VALENCIA

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/09/22/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-first-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted September 22, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Luke 11, Numbers 16, Numbers 27, Psalm 106

Tagged with , , , ,

Relying on God’s Power   1 comment

Deborah

Above:  Deborah

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you anointed Jesus at his baptism with the Holy Spirit

and revealed him as your beloved Son.

Keep all who are born of water and the Spirit faithful in your service,

that we may rejoice to be called children of God,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 4:1-16 (Monday)

Judges 5:12-21 (Tuesday)

Psalm 106:1-12 (Both Days)

Ephesians 6:10-17 (Monday)

1 John 5:13-21 (Tuesday)

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Though God delivered them many times

they, for their part, went on planning rebellion

and so sank deeper into sin.

Yet he looked kindly on their distress

whenever he heard them cry.

To help them he recalled his covenant with them,

so deep was his devotion that he took pity on them.

He saw to it that they received compassion

even from those who had taken them captive.

Save us, LORD, our God,

gather us in from among the nations

so that we may acknowledge you as the Holy One.

and take pride in praising you.

–Psalm 106:43-47, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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I know that the portion of Psalm 106 I have quoted follows verse 12, but those verses seem more applicable to the readings from Judges 4 and 5 than Psalm 106:1-12.  If I had quoted from the first 12 verses of Psalm 106 I would have selected verse 10, set in the context of the Exodus from Egypt:

He rescued them from their foes,

he reclaimed them from enemy hands.

–Harry Mowvley translation

The story in Judges 4 and 5 is consistent with a motif in that book:

  1. The Israelites have fallen into pervasive sin.
  2. YHWH permits a foreign group to oppress the Israelites.
  3. The Israelites cry out to YHWH.
  4. YHWH sends a leader or leaders to resist the oppressors.
  5. The oppression ceases.
  6. The Israelites follow God for a time.
  7. The cycle repeats.

As a note in The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) informs me, nowhere does the text of Judges 4 and 5 identify any of the human protagonists–Deborah the prophetess, Barak the army commander, and Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite–as the deliverer of the Israelites.  Each of those individuals played a crucial role in the liberation, but God delivered the Israelites from oppression.  That theme occurs elsewhere in the Book of Judges and other portions of the Bible, as in the Exodus and the end of the Babylonian Exile.

A motif in the Bible is that God works through people much of the time.  These might be upstanding individuals or they might be scoundrels, at least on their bad days.  Some of these instruments of God are not even believers.  These realities point toward the power and sovereignty of God.

As much as I find Martin Luther to have been a morally troublesome character, his theology of relying on the faithfulness of God is beyond reproach.  We who follow God are children of God, members of the household of God, so we ought to act boldly and confidently in righteousness.  Such righteous confidence should banish faithless and selfish fears (distinct from well-reasoned fears, such as that of touching hot surfaces), enabling us to love our neighbors (both near and far) selflessly.  We have the spiritual armor of God, of which St. Paul the Apostle  or someone writing in his name imagined as being like the armor of a Roman soldier.  Every piece of the armor is God’s.  If it is good enough for God, it is good enough for mere mortals.  After the reading from Ephesians 6 comes this advice:

Constantly ask God’s help in prayer, and pray always in the power of the Spirit.

–Ephesians 6:18, The Revised English Bible (1989)

After all, we depend on God’s power, not our own.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 21, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHEW THE EVANGELIST, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/09/21/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-first-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Enjoying God Fully   1 comment

Family Record-Marriage Certificate

Above:  Family Record-Marriage Certificate, 1800s

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you anointed Jesus at his baptism with the Holy Spirit

and revealed him as your beloved Son.

Keep all who are born of water and the Spirit faithful in your service,

that we may rejoice to be called children of God,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 (Friday)

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 (Saturday)

Psalm 29 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 2:1-10 (Friday)

1 Corinthians 2:11-16 (Saturday)

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The LORD’s thunder brings flashes of lightning.

The LORD’s thunder makes the desert writhe,

the LORD makes the desert of Kadesh writhe.

The LORD’s thunder makes the oak trees dance around

and strips the forests bare.

So in his Temple everyone shouts “Glory!”

–Psalm 29:7-9, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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Q:  What is the chief and highest end of man?

A:  Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

The Westminster Larger Catechism

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Koheleth, the author of Ecclesiastes, discovered that he enjoyed his wealth, but that he got nothing else out of it.  That enjoyment of life’s blessings is a gift from God, he wrote.

Psychological studies have revealed the links between increased wealth and happiness.  Up to a certain amount, more wealth means more happiness.  Past that point increased wealth leads either to no additional happiness or to greater stress.  Often people who are wealthy beyond the point at which more wealth does not increase happiness desire more money.  Yet some of the most content people have had little and some of the most miserable people have been wealthy.  Likewise, some of the poorest people have found poverty to be the cause of great misery and some of the wealthiest people have long known that money can stave off many indignities and sorrows.

The real issue is priorities.  Wealth can insulate one from a sense of total dependence on God and of responsibilities to and for other people.  This reality, I am convinced, explains many of the hard sayings regarding wealth in the Bible.  Furthermore, wealth cannot shield one from all of life’s indignities and sorrows.

Another priority is choosing happiness.  Being happy is a choice, regardless of one’s level of wealth, marital status, health, et cetera.  Establishing the priority to notice the plethora of blessings from God and to revel in them is a positive course of action.

A negative course of action is to fail to recognize divine wisdom.  St. Paul the Apostle wrote that such failure led to the crucifixion of Jesus.  Christ was divine love incarnate, but that love proved threatening to human power structures built on violence and on artificial scarcity and exclusiveness.  Those blinders prevented those who killed Jesus and those who consented to his death from recognizing their sin.  Those people could have enjoyed God fully, but they failed to recognize God in their midst.

A habit I remind myself to nurture is to identify five blessings every day.  (I should do better at this practice than I do, but often I become distracted.)  To identify five blessings each day and to revel in them is a realistic goal.  So is to do this for many consecutive days without duplicating any items on the daily lists.  The main point of this spiritual exercise is to develop a mindset of gratitude to God and of awareness of the great number of blessings–to enjoy God more fully.  Koheleth and St. Paul the Apostle would approve.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 21, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHEW THE EVANGELIST, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/09/21/devotion-for-friday-and-saturday-before-the-first-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Human Folly and Divine Wisdom   1 comment

probably_valentin_de_boulogne_-_saint_paul_writing_his_epistles_-_google_art_project

Above:  Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you anointed Jesus at his baptism with the Holy Spirit

and revealed him as your beloved Son.

Keep all who are born of water and the Spirit faithful in your service,

that we may rejoice to be called children of God,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Ecclesiastes 1:1-11

Psalm 29

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

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Bow down to the LORD in his holy splendour.

–Psalm 29:2, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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The author of Ecclesiastes was a realist.  I, as a student and teacher of history, recognize the truth of 1:10-11 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, 1985):

Sometimes there is a new phenomenon of which they say, “Look, this one is new!”–it occurred long since, in ages that went by before us.  The earlier ones are not remembered; so too those that will occur later will no more be remembered than those that will occur at the very end.

If all is “futility” (to quote TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures) and “vanity” (to quote The New Revised Standard Version), to whom should we cling?  Is life a morass of postmodern uncertainty or do we have access to a ground for sound theological epistomology?  The author of Ecclesiastes advised trusting in God.

St. Paul the Apostle agreed with Koheleth.  Human wisdom and power are nothing compared to God, St. Paul wrote.  The power of God is saving those who are not perishing.  The only proper boast is in God, whose wisdom is foolishness to many people and whose foolishness is wiser than human wisdom.  God is reliable.  As Martin Luther counseled, may we rely on the faithfulness of God.

This ethos contradicts much “received wisdom” in the United States of America, where rugged individualism is a perceived virtue.  Reality belies rugged individualism, however.  We rely on each other in society.  For example, I drive my car to work.  I rely on mechanics to keep my car in working order.  (Fortunately, the vehicle is reliable, needing mostly routine maintenance.)  I also rely on those who maintain the roads on which I drive to work.  Beyond that concrete example, the social ethos of the Law of Moses is to acknowledge our total dependence on God, our responsibilities for each other, and our duties to each other.  This ethos precludes exploiting any person.

Only God can inaugurate such a society, but we mere mortals can labor to approach it.  We, after all, are society.  If we were to take more seriously our duties to God, to each other, and for each other, I wonder how much better society would be.  Such visions are not futile, if enough people, trusting in God, act faithfully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 21, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHEW THE EVANGELIST, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/09/21/devotion-for-thursday-before-the-first-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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