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Looking At the Lectionary Passages

GeoFee

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Each Monday morning I look up and read through the lectionary passages for the coming Sunday. On Tuesday morning I write down first impressions to guide my reflections through the week. I am going to place those first impressions here and welcome supportive or contradictory responses.

Sunday, December 15 - Advent 3 / Joy
Luke 1: 46b-55 / James 5: 7-10 / Isaiah 35: 1-10 / Psalm 146: 5-10

This week Joy is at the centre of our attention. I am reminded of the song which speaks of the Joy of the Lord being our strength. The Luke passage stands near the heart of Joy. A young woman hears from God that she will bear a child who will change the world. The text expresses her Joy concerning the coming of a new world order. An order based on a just distribution of life’s goods among all peoples.

James encourages patience as we watch and wait for the appearing of God in our experience. We are also encouraged to build up our faith and work cooperatively rather than competitively. James points to the prophets of ancient Israel as examples of a life lived according to the way of God.

Isaiah is a visionary poet who sees into the way of God. His narrative this week makes known the new way of life which is hoped for. All conflict between creatures and creation is resolved. We are told that God is in motion to reconcile and make new. This involves a process of refining by which all that works against our joy is removed so that the treasure of life is revealed and Joy liberated.

The Psalm lets us know that confidence in God who is the creator of all that has being. This God is presented as faithful in all times. That faithfulness being expressed as the inclusion of those excluded by social form and convention. Again we notice the call for justice. This will mean the ending of all exploitation and oppression by persons addicted to power. This hope brings Joy to those who trust it and work towards its realization.
 

GeoFee

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This weeks texts are: Isaiah 7: 10-16; Psalm 80: 1-7; Romans 1: 1-7; Matthew 1: 18-23

First impressions:

I am surprised to discover that we are already in the fourth week of Advent. The theme will be love. Isaiah sounds this theme by speaking of a young woman who will bring forth a son. This son will be name Immanuel, which means God is with us. We also notice that this son will live an ascetic style of life. We notice this as a contrast to the general pattern of kings and rulers throughout history.

The Psalm presents a heart in prayer for salvation. This prayer asks for the light of God to shine so that the faithful may find their way through dark times. The people of God are languishing in the presence of a world system that belittles trust in God. We notice that salvation requires a turning from the way of the world to the way of God.

In his letter to the Romans the apostle speaks of himself as one who serves. He is inspired to this service by the good news revealed in Jesus who is descended from king David. Jesus has overcome the fear of death and in his resurrection continues to inspire and encourage persons to live lives of services, following in the way of God revealed through human word and deed.

Matthew speaks about the birth of the messiah, the one who shines light in the dark and in this way opens the way of salvation. Salvation being understood as turning from the way of the world to the way of God. We notice that the child in Mary’s womb has been conceived in circumstance that most would take as outside the way of God. This offers us opportunity to turn from our inherited understanding of life’s meaning and purpose to embrace the living reality of God present with us in our daily experience of life.
 
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Luce NDs

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Image the light feeling of bringing a Levite passage into a life deep in the shadows of the temple ... frontal lobe or alternate! Could be like distant sunshine as a metaphor ...
 

jimkenney12

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I look at the lectionary passages at least a month in advance, more often two to three months so I can provide the music leaders with my planned themes for Sundays for two to three months in advance to assist them with their choices of music and anthems. I try to develop a connecting theme for blocks of Sundays. For Advent, my connecting theme was anticipation (Hope-filled Anticipation; anticipating peace, Joy in anticipation; for today it was Love Overcomes)
 

GeoFee

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Busy days for the past while. Thought to post a short video of my talk this morning. It begins with me speaking about my Sunday preparation process. Then moves on to share perspectives on the text relevant to our times.

 

GeoFee

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Lectionary selections for January 5, 2020

John 1:15; Ephesians 1:3-7; Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-21; Jeremiah 31:10-13

Here are my first impressions:

“Hello on this last day of the year! We have come a fair way together. Now we are looking forward to more good things to come.

The John text speaks about God as the Word and that Word being the one life expressed in all people. That light has shone throughout human history no matter how the darkness has tried to snuff it out.

In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle pronounces the blessing of God. That blessing consists in the spiritual gifts which are the true treasure of life. The apostle notices that Jesus is the one who opens the way for our redemption. Though we had been separated from the light of life within us, Jesus opens the eyes of our heart to realize that God is not against us but for us. Jesus accomplishes this by freely giving his life in obedience to the spirit of God. Choosing the way of God revealed in Jesus we are kept from the deepening darkness by grace.

The text found in the Wisdom of Solomon speaks about the feminine spirit present as wisdom. That wisdom takes root in a human heart and begins to resist the misuse and abuse of power by those who govern the land and its peoples. We notice that wisdom is at work in the liberation of Israel from captivity in Egypt, their journey of purification and entrance to the promised future. Wisdom inspires us to speak clearly about our being as the image of God.

Jeremiah encourages the nations to hear and repeat the Word of God. Though we have been divided and scattered by the darkness, God is a shepherd who finds us and brings us back into the community of trust. This leads us to celebrate life and shine love into all of our relations.”
 

GeoFee

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Lectionary selections for January 12, 2020:

Isaiah 42: 1-9; Acts 10: 34-43; Matthew 3: 13-17

My first impressions:

"This year we will be looking into the life lived by Jesus among the people of the land. We will be remembering that he was a person just like us. We are invited to take up the practice of care.

Isaiah speaks of a person inspired by the spirit of God. This person is not seeking public attention and is wholly oriented to seek and establish the well being of persons met along the way. This in the hope of communicating God’s desire for a just distribution of life’s goodness. This purpose is seen not only in Jesus but also in various historic persons who make a difference by their commitment to God and neighbour. The passage ends with an announcement of changing times. We are encouraged to expect the newness of God in our experience.

In Acts we discover that God does not favour a particular nation. Persons in all times and places who have dedicated themselves to the way of life revealed by the spirit of God are included. Jesus is presented as the one who makes clear the way of God. That is the way of justice, mercy and humility. This contradicts prevailing religious and political powers. These powers rise up to silence Jesus because he interferes with their self serving agendas.

Matthew tells the story of Jesus being baptized. John the Baptist is aware that Jesus is the one sent by God. At first he feels inadequate to perform the baptism. Jesus is immersed in the water and rises to the blessing of God. The act of dying to the way of power and rising to the way of service makes clear the calling and commitment of Jesus. He is the example for us so that we too may turn from the way leading to death and embrace the way leading to life and all of its blessings
."
 

GordW

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I find the Servant Songs somewhat fascinating. THe challenge is to not automatically assume they refer to Christ, while also acknowledging that this is a very possible Christian way of reading them. WHat might it mean to be a Beloved Servant, with whom God is well pleased?
 

Nancy

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I wish I had read this before I prepared the message for Sunday. I focus on Jesus' baptism as a new beginning (no surprise there!) but relate it to the particular church's new beginning. Their minister retired and they are in the process of searching for a new one. I also talk about Jesus' natural humility after I wonder: Why did Jesus need to be baptized? Humility becomes the idea of being God-centered rather than self-centered, and seems to be good criteria to use in a search for a new minister.
 

Nancy

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I just read "Jesus Means Life" by Patricia and Harold Wells. Yes, it is an older book, but I found it very inspiring. Some of the ideas about Jesus' humility, and his reaction to the Pharisees that I include in my message, are inspired by this book.
 

GeoFee

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I have this book on my shelf. I appreciated the text and very much appreciate the graphics.

IMG_6340.jpg
 

GeoFee

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I began by talking about Lao Tzu, Buddha and Socrates. What I said about them is not factual. It is metaphoric. Then I wound my way through Isaiah, Acts and Luke. Bringing forward the idea that God approves of all who do what is right. Each who takes on the responsibility of dedication to God and service to neighbour. A world of cooperation rather than competition. Quite a contrast to our evolving dog eat dog world!

Here is what I said:

 

PilgrimsProgress

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I also preached on the baptism of Jesus.....
I feel that my gifts and calling are to preach in mission churches - which, here in Australia, are often attended by society's marginalised. Many are lonely and find life a real struggle, and are in need of God's promise to share their struggles with them, and thus most of my sermons concern Jesus's messages to love God and neighbour.

Here's the sermon -


Baptism and the nature of sin

Matthew 3:13-17

‘May God open our eyes to see

Our ears to hear

And our hearts to love.”

Amen.



Today’s gospel reading concerns the baptism of Jesus. Baptism is one of the two sacraments still enacted by the Uniting Church –the other being the Lord’s Supper. It’s fitting that we perform these two sacraments, as both were undertaken by Jesus himself.

So baptism and its requirements will be my theme – beginning with the baptism of Jesus, two thousand years ago.



Picture the scene. Jesus comes to camel-hair-wearing, locust eating, John the baptizer, who’s baptizing believers by bodily submersion in the river Jordan.

John is somewhat overwhelmed, saying he is the one who should be baptized by Jesus, not the other way around. But Jesus insists, so John goes ahead with the baptism. Upon emerging from the submersion, we are told the heavens are open, and a dove descends and a voice from heaven pronounces “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

You may be wondering why Jesus asked John to baptize him? God had previously given John the promise of a coming Messiah and the way to identify Him. Jesus fulfilled that promise. His baptism was simply the right thing at the right time: the last act of Jesus’ private life.



So, what does baptism signify for us in today’s world?

Firstly, let’s look at the baptism sacrament itself.

The baptism sacrament involves either a full body immersion, or water is poured or sprinkled in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Sprinkling with water is what we see happening here in our Ashfield church – with babies, toddlers, children and adults.

Some of you may remember my baptism here a few months ago. I was happy to be baptized here at Ashfield because this church and this congregation is my spiritual home.

Rev. Bill has a tradition of holding up babies and small children to present to the congregation after the baptism. Thankfully, at my baptism, Bill dispensed with this custom – I suspect one or both of us would have sustained an injury if he hadn’t!

So what does baptism signify?

Baptism is a ritual cleansing, a sacred rite, that signals one’s inclusion into a community. But it’s not just a public commitment of inclusion into a community, it’s also a public commitment of a transformation from one way of life –a life of sin, to another way of life - a life of righteousness.

The church, over the centuries, has had a lot to say about sin. What it is, who is doing it, and what are the repercussions.

In my first year of High School, in an attempt to be popular, I joined this gang. To prove myself, I was instructed to steal something from Coles –in the days when all the goods were displayed in open counters. I knew stealing was a sin, and that it was wrong, but, at the time, becoming accepted by my peers, seemed more important.

So I waited until the saleslady was serving someone, turned my back on the counter, and just groped behind me for any ornament. The ornament tuned out to an angel, with wings that glowed in the dark. That night, overwhelmed with guilt, I knew that I couldn’t keep the angel. (And, let me tell you, it was more difficult to return the angel unseen, than it was to take it)!



But, is sin confined to individual behaviour alone? Can groups of people sin? Can countries and their governments sin?

Is using military might to invade another country and take over its resources a sin? Is not attending to the needs of society’s most vulnerable –such as the homeless, the sick, the aged and the unemployed, a sin?



I’ve given a lot of thought to how I view sin – and how I would describe it.

Firstly, sin to me, can be both individual acts and group acts.

Secondly, a broader definition of sin is required, a definition that is applicable, regardless of the time and culture. You might be wondering why this is necessary –isn’t an act that was once seen as a sin (a transgression of a Biblical law) always a sin?

Well, no. In Leviticus 19 it states that “nor shall you put on a garment made of two different materials”. (Better check those clothing labels!)



I’m indebted to two theologians, Marcus Borg and Paul Tillich, for their definitions of sin.

Marcus Borg describes sin as “missing the mark”. The mark being to love God and his creation and to love each other. And I would add a third love – to love ourselves. A love of self means we are entitled to personal boundaries, to not keep company with those who abuse our physical and emotional selves.

When it comes to sin, I’ve noticed a tendency to concentrate on the sins of others, rather than our own. But we can’t change another’s behaviour, so, for the rest of this reflection, I’m going to concentrate on our own individual sinning.

In regard to our own sins, Marcus Borg goes on to say, “We don’t always hit the bull’s eye in our thoughts and actions”. We’re not perfect. In that sense, we humans are all sinners –no exceptions. But here’s the paradox. When we embrace humility and feel genuinely sorry when we hurt others we are also forgiven for missing the mark by God, and given a clean slate.



Theologian and preacher Paul Tillich defines sin as a state of separation. And separation is threefold: there is separation within ourselves, separation from others, and separation from God, the Ground of Being.

Thus, when we emerge from the baptism sacrament, we are unified with all parts of our created self; unified with the human community and unified with God.



But, baptism is only a beginning. Sinning, or being in a state of separation, is an ongoing struggle we face throughout our lives.

Our church, The Uniting Church of Australia, states “The people of God are motivated and empowered by their baptism to struggle against sin, to witness in church and world to Christ’s resurrection, to love God and their neighbour, to serve, help, encourage and comfort all people and to do everything else that the new life in Christ involves.

Note the use of the word “motivated’.

Baptism, in itself, doesn’t stop us from being sinners.

Baptism doesn’t prevent us from sinning, but I continue to think baptism is important, in the same way that I think marriage vows are important. By standing in front of a congregation or a group of friends and vowing faithfulness and being committed to a “new” way of life, you are entering into a practice that is common to billions of people now and in the past. It is both a tradition worth keeping, and a public commitment to do one’s best to live a loving life.



In conclusion, if baptism doesn’t prevent us from sinning, how do we as individuals think and act to avoid sinning? How do we avoid “missing the mark” and “being in a state of separation from ourselves, others, and God?”

I believe the answer lies in Jesus’ two commandments, love God, and love our neighbor. Remember Jesus saying, "and whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me”?

Notice the next time you lose your temper with someone how you feel inside? Do you feel unsettled, disturbed, and in a state of separation? That feeling can be termed as sin. The sin of failing to love. So pay attention to your inner thoughts and feelings. It’s God’s way of letting us know if we are, at that very moment, in the state of sin of separation, or the state of love and connection.

Finally, that’s why forgiveness is so important in Christianity. Remember the image of the father of the prodigal son running towards his contrite son with open arms? Forgiveness is the pathway to re-connection with ourselves, each other, and our God.



Amen.
 

GeoFee

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Here are my beginning thoughts after reading the texts for this coming Sunday.

The texts are: Isaiah 49:1-4; Psalm 40:1-9; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:35-42

Isaiah writes about a servant who does all that is possible to bring justice. Even so that servant feels that all the investment of energy has produced no substantial change in the power structures of the day. Even so that servant feels that obedience to God brings blessing.

"The Psalm speaks of patient waiting for the appearing of God. This is the God who hears the longing of our hearts for justice, without which there can be no peace. God’s spirit delivers us from the negative forces that seek to enter and dominate our experience. Those who trust in the spiritual presence of God stand on unshakable ground. These are resistant to the seductions of power as it is exercised by both political and religious institutions. We also hear that God is not at all interested in the sacrifice of animals and burnt offerings as the means to reconciliation. What God expects is our readiness to do good in and through all our relations. This is the message Isaiah presents in faithful response to the word of God.

In his letter to the Corinthians, the apostle begins by stating that he has been called and authorized by God to speak truth in the hearing of the faith community. He states that we are called to be saints. This in the company of persons in all times and places who gave themselves as servants to the hope of human being on earth. These are equipped by the spirit to make present the grace of God. The apostle encourages us to live our lives in service and in this way be freed of any guilt before God who calls us to choose the narrow way leading to life rather than the broad way leading to destruction. He ends by assuring us that God is trustworthy.

John’s gospel tells the story of Jesus and the beginning of his service to humanity in the name of God. Jesus is presented as a lamb, a creature in no way prone to violence and in all ways vulnerable to predatory power. Jesus does not resist by politics leading to war. We notice the calling of persons who step out of their past and offer themselves in service to the spirit of God. A person called Simon has his name changed by Jesus. Simon means a reed that is easily bent and crushed. The new name given by Jesus is Peter, which means a rock that is stable and secure. We learn that Jesus offers us a firm foundation for living a life of service."
 

Luce NDs

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Construct of the powerful risings will impoverish something causing collapse and implosion. Sort of like the tension in the hubris-nemesis curve ... as ups and downs in the abstract fantasies of the psyche!

I'm told that psyche process is crazy as thinking men are dangerous!
 

GeoFee

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I also preached on the baptism of Jesus.....
I feel that my gifts and calling are to preach in mission churches - which, here in Australia, are often attended by society's marginalised. Many are lonely and find life a real struggle, and are in need of God's promise to share their struggles with them, and thus most of my sermons concern Jesus's messages to love God and neighbour.

Here's the sermon -


Baptism and the nature of sin

Matthew 3:13-17

‘May God open our eyes to see

Our ears to hear

And our hearts to love.”

Amen.



Today’s gospel reading concerns the baptism of Jesus. Baptism is one of the two sacraments still enacted by the Uniting Church –the other being the Lord’s Supper. It’s fitting that we perform these two sacraments, as both were undertaken by Jesus himself.

So baptism and its requirements will be my theme – beginning with the baptism of Jesus, two thousand years ago.



Picture the scene. Jesus comes to camel-hair-wearing, locust eating, John the baptizer, who’s baptizing believers by bodily submersion in the river Jordan.

John is somewhat overwhelmed, saying he is the one who should be baptized by Jesus, not the other way around. But Jesus insists, so John goes ahead with the baptism. Upon emerging from the submersion, we are told the heavens are open, and a dove descends and a voice from heaven pronounces “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

You may be wondering why Jesus asked John to baptize him? God had previously given John the promise of a coming Messiah and the way to identify Him. Jesus fulfilled that promise. His baptism was simply the right thing at the right time: the last act of Jesus’ private life.



So, what does baptism signify for us in today’s world?

Firstly, let’s look at the baptism sacrament itself.

The baptism sacrament involves either a full body immersion, or water is poured or sprinkled in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Sprinkling with water is what we see happening here in our Ashfield church – with babies, toddlers, children and adults.

Some of you may remember my baptism here a few months ago. I was happy to be baptized here at Ashfield because this church and this congregation is my spiritual home.

Rev. Bill has a tradition of holding up babies and small children to present to the congregation after the baptism. Thankfully, at my baptism, Bill dispensed with this custom – I suspect one or both of us would have sustained an injury if he hadn’t!

So what does baptism signify?

Baptism is a ritual cleansing, a sacred rite, that signals one’s inclusion into a community. But it’s not just a public commitment of inclusion into a community, it’s also a public commitment of a transformation from one way of life –a life of sin, to another way of life - a life of righteousness.

The church, over the centuries, has had a lot to say about sin. What it is, who is doing it, and what are the repercussions.

In my first year of High School, in an attempt to be popular, I joined this gang. To prove myself, I was instructed to steal something from Coles –in the days when all the goods were displayed in open counters. I knew stealing was a sin, and that it was wrong, but, at the time, becoming accepted by my peers, seemed more important.

So I waited until the saleslady was serving someone, turned my back on the counter, and just groped behind me for any ornament. The ornament tuned out to an angel, with wings that glowed in the dark. That night, overwhelmed with guilt, I knew that I couldn’t keep the angel. (And, let me tell you, it was more difficult to return the angel unseen, than it was to take it)!



But, is sin confined to individual behaviour alone? Can groups of people sin? Can countries and their governments sin?

Is using military might to invade another country and take over its resources a sin? Is not attending to the needs of society’s most vulnerable –such as the homeless, the sick, the aged and the unemployed, a sin?



I’ve given a lot of thought to how I view sin – and how I would describe it.

Firstly, sin to me, can be both individual acts and group acts.

Secondly, a broader definition of sin is required, a definition that is applicable, regardless of the time and culture. You might be wondering why this is necessary –isn’t an act that was once seen as a sin (a transgression of a Biblical law) always a sin?

Well, no. In Leviticus 19 it states that “nor shall you put on a garment made of two different materials”. (Better check those clothing labels!)



I’m indebted to two theologians, Marcus Borg and Paul Tillich, for their definitions of sin.

Marcus Borg describes sin as “missing the mark”. The mark being to love God and his creation and to love each other. And I would add a third love – to love ourselves. A love of self means we are entitled to personal boundaries, to not keep company with those who abuse our physical and emotional selves.

When it comes to sin, I’ve noticed a tendency to concentrate on the sins of others, rather than our own. But we can’t change another’s behaviour, so, for the rest of this reflection, I’m going to concentrate on our own individual sinning.

In regard to our own sins, Marcus Borg goes on to say, “We don’t always hit the bull’s eye in our thoughts and actions”. We’re not perfect. In that sense, we humans are all sinners –no exceptions. But here’s the paradox. When we embrace humility and feel genuinely sorry when we hurt others we are also forgiven for missing the mark by God, and given a clean slate.



Theologian and preacher Paul Tillich defines sin as a state of separation. And separation is threefold: there is separation within ourselves, separation from others, and separation from God, the Ground of Being.

Thus, when we emerge from the baptism sacrament, we are unified with all parts of our created self; unified with the human community and unified with God.



But, baptism is only a beginning. Sinning, or being in a state of separation, is an ongoing struggle we face throughout our lives.

Our church, The Uniting Church of Australia, states “The people of God are motivated and empowered by their baptism to struggle against sin, to witness in church and world to Christ’s resurrection, to love God and their neighbour, to serve, help, encourage and comfort all people and to do everything else that the new life in Christ involves.

Note the use of the word “motivated’.

Baptism, in itself, doesn’t stop us from being sinners.

Baptism doesn’t prevent us from sinning, but I continue to think baptism is important, in the same way that I think marriage vows are important. By standing in front of a congregation or a group of friends and vowing faithfulness and being committed to a “new” way of life, you are entering into a practice that is common to billions of people now and in the past. It is both a tradition worth keeping, and a public commitment to do one’s best to live a loving life.



In conclusion, if baptism doesn’t prevent us from sinning, how do we as individuals think and act to avoid sinning? How do we avoid “missing the mark” and “being in a state of separation from ourselves, others, and God?”

I believe the answer lies in Jesus’ two commandments, love God, and love our neighbor. Remember Jesus saying, "and whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me”?

Notice the next time you lose your temper with someone how you feel inside? Do you feel unsettled, disturbed, and in a state of separation? That feeling can be termed as sin. The sin of failing to love. So pay attention to your inner thoughts and feelings. It’s God’s way of letting us know if we are, at that very moment, in the state of sin of separation, or the state of love and connection.

Finally, that’s why forgiveness is so important in Christianity. Remember the image of the father of the prodigal son running towards his contrite son with open arms? Forgiveness is the pathway to re-connection with ourselves, each other, and our God.



Amen.
Very nice to read your words. Clear language and sound insight. Good to think of you in your small corner!
 

Luce NDs

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Imagine eye opening cognizant experience ... too hard to take for those of blinder fates ...
 
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