A Cross, Some Thoughts, Surveying the Wondrous Cross

goodfridayOne of the most popular pieces of jewelry is a cross. Not just among the religious, mind you, but among society in general. They come form the plain and simply to the most diamond studded bling. Even among denominations that only a few years ago might have shunned the wearing of such a sacred symbol, crosses adorn the necks, the ears, and anywhere else they can find to put one—on jewelry that is! We glamorize the cross on everything but seem to somewhat gloss over it in our churches. Sure, we sing a few songs such as the ‘Old Rugged Cross,’ or, ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.’ But for the most part we skip past the cross and get right to the resurrection.

            As we hold our blingy crosses in such high esteem, even being proud when we see others adorned with them, for the First Century Jew, or anyone else for that matter, the cross was not the pretty thing we have made it out to be. The cross was a scary symbol. It represented the most horrid way a man could die. As one walked down the first century road, they could see the sights of the dying hung on the cross. Maybe the stench of rotting flesh filled the air. Buzzards would have been circling, waiting for the precise, right moment to swoop down for the awaiting feast. Flies would been buzzing around and maggots filling the open wounds. A deterrent to crime. An example set for one not to rebel against the empire. Yes, the cross.

            Yet too often we want to, in our we want it right now mental, go straight on to the resurrection. But, it was the cross on that—what has come to be called Good Friday—afternoon that changed the world. For St. Paul, he maintained that when in Corinth he vowed to know nothing but Christ and Christ crucified. It was not the resurrection—Sunday morning—it was Friday afternoon. Sadly, we look closer at the resurrection and skim the wondrous cross that changed the creation that God had once called ‘good,’ but had strayed from God’s will and way.

            While we look at the crosses we have around our necks, pierced in our ears, tattooed on our bodies, we forget what the cross symbolized to the Jewish people. We tend to forget that it was the cross, the wondrous cross, that on a Friday afternoon, changed the world. It was because of the cross that the proclamation ‘Surely, this man was the Son of God,’ not the resurrection, though by the resurrection He was declared to be the Son of God by the Holy Spirit.

            The Cross changed the world. The Cross made way for us to walk in the new earth, the future, while still living in the present. The Cross, the Wonderous, Old Rugged Cross, changed the world; the resurrection was the proof that it had happened.

 

Collect for Good Friday:

Lord Jesus Christ, by your death you took away the sting of death: Grant to us your servants so to follow in faith where you have led the way, that we may at length fall asleep peacefully in you and wake up in your likeness; for your tender mercies’ sake. Amen.

 

Until next time, may the God Lord bless and keep you!

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GUNS, TWITTER, AND ICONS

twitterWe’ve another week of mourning in America as the live of innocent school children were taken by an evil shooter. Yet, the children are not the only reason America mourns; we also lost our most prized possession and icon, the Rev. Dr. Billy Graham. And therein might lie the key to many of the problems that are prevailing in our world. While I’m not quoting the comments on Rev. Graham in the body of this post [they are posted at the end of the writing for those with a curious nature] that were given by Teen Vouge—yes, the Teen Vouge your child reads—writer Lauren Duca, her diatribe aimed at Graham epitomizes the predicament of today’s America; we no longer have love and respect for our fellow man. We no longer love our neighbors as ourselves. And as the tirade of Duca was aimed at a man of God, it points to the fact that we no longer have love and respect for God. Our Country is drifting away from the very things that held us together; we have allowed, and are allowing, our country and ourselves to drift farther from the shore.

 Instead of clinging to the Christian principles that have given us hope, that have made us strong, that taught us to love God and our neighbor, that gave us love back from both, we have given in to the hate filled vitriol of Hollywood. We have settled in to permit the likes of Duca and pop stars to shape the minds of our youth. We have, as a people, forgotten the one who created the people. We have allowed the worship of the created instead of worshipping the creator. Idolatry is  killing our youth and in essence our country.

It’s not about ‘gun control’—though I could easily argue that it could be about more controlled people having guns! It’s about us and whom/what we choose to worship. When we come back to worshipping the Creator God and shunning the man-made idols of Hollywood, Teen Vouge, and every other idea that aims to take us away from the one true God—the God whose gospel the Rev. Graham preached for years—our country will again be a place where our children can go to school without fear. It will be a place where we can enjoy a music festival with the only fear being our toes getting stepped on. When come back to truly loving God, we will truly love our neighbor as ourselves; We come back to loving God our neighborhood, our community, our state, our country, will again be the place—the place where we had love and security—we once lived in and have long pined for. While Duca has vehemently commanded Rev. Dr. Graham to rest eternally in a lowly place of everlasting torment, it is my wish that we all hear and follow his simple message, and when we depart, as he did make Heaven an even brighter place.

[Duca’s comments taken from her twitter account @lurarenduca: “The big news today is that Billy Graham was still alive this whole time. Anyway, have fun in hell, bitch.” This was followed with “’Respect for the dead’ only apples to those who weren’t evil pieces of shit while they were living, thanks.”]

Until next time may the Good Lord bless and keep you!

 

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LENT, ASH WEDNESDAY: I’M GIVING UP MAYONNAISE!

ashwednesdayThe time of Lent is again upon us. And, for many it is the time where we give up something. For the next 46 days we ‘fast.’ We give up something. And, it is my plan to give up mayonnaise. Of course, of the 46 days, six are Sundays of which we are under no obligation to fast, so I can eat mayonnaise on those days—should I so choose. Yet, as I detest mayonnaise I believe I shall not partake of this food—I use the word loosely—on those days on which I could actually eat it. Sadly, that is the attitude with which many enter into the Lenten fast.

Our time of fasting during the Lenten period should be a time of bring us closer to God. Amos has called on us to “Seek the Lord” (Amos 5:6, ESV). We need to be clearing out the clutter that is causing us to spend less time with our God. Some many times in our busy lives, when time is tight, it is God who gets pushed by the wayside. Thus, our fast should be one that turns our eyes upon Jesus. As Paul wrote in the Epistle to the Hebrews, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1-2). Our fast then needs to draw us closer to the Lord. As we await that day when we celebrate what the Lord has done, the day when the Lord changed the world on the Cross and gave proof of that change by his resurrection.

It was the Cross that changed the world. On that day the world became a new place. We have the evidence of this when Paul wrote to the church in Corinth that he resolved to know nothing while he was in Corinth except “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). The proof of what happened on that Cross became manifest three days later when the Christ “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of Holiness by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:4).

Our Lenten Fast then helps us to seek the Lord. It helps us to run the race with endurance. It should more clearly help us to see the world that came to be on a Friday afternoon on a Cross. Our fast helps to bring into focus the work of Jesus on the Cross.

John preached a baptism of repentance. And our Lenten fast should be a type of repentance. It is not a fast that turns us back from where we came; it is a fast that turns us to where we should go. We fast from what tends to take away our time from focus on God. It is a fast that helps us to turn to Him, to seek Him. It is a fast that doesn’t weaken us but strengthens us to run the race with endurance. As John preached a baptism of repentance, our Lenten fast turns our eyes toward, helps us more fully seek, the one who was raised by the same Holy Spirit by which we are baptized. It is not enough for us to simply turn our eyes from the things of which we fast; we must in the Spirit turn our eyes unto Him.

Of course, I am not giving up mayonnaise for Lent; I never eat the nasty mess to start with! As a matter of fact, eating mayonnaise, I feel, would probably send me on to the heavenly realm! But, I ask at this Lenten period, allow your fast to be one that draws you ever so closer to God. Seek Him and allow your fast to allow you to run the race with endurance. Turn from the world and walk in the Spirit by which you are indwelled.  As you seek God, humble yourselves so that you may be exalted (Luke 18:14). Allow the Holy Spirit to take you on a pilgrimage during Lent that takes you to the Cross of Christ with a proclamation that surely this man really is the son of God!

 

Until next time, may the good Lord bless and keep you!

(For those of you on FaceBook I will see you in April)

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TAKE US BACK

timeBack in the 70s we all laughed as the margarine commercial claimed, “It’s not nice to fool mother nature.” Yet, now in the 21st century we are all agog to ‘fool’ Father God. We have all but forgotten the original creation, which was pronounced as good. We were taught to pray for God’s will to be done on earth as in Heaven. Yet, we have allowed, and even endorsed, everything but God’s will. As Christians we are called to counter the culture not embrace and bless it.

We allow infanticide, yet wonder why there is no regard for others. We wonder what is wrong with society as we allow same-sex marriage—marriage that is against the original creation—leaving children with no role model of the sex opposite the sex of his/her same sex parents. We allow little Johnny to be little Susie if that is how he decides to identify himself.  And, we wonder why men don’t act like men and women act like women.

It is time we turned back to the original creation that God pronounced as good. We need biblical manhood and womanhood back as the basic building blocks of society. Men and women need to return to being the image bearers of God that they were designed to be. Personal identification does not make men and women; God makes men and women. True freedom is not found in giving in to our every whim and desired identification; true freedom is being transformed by God’s spirit into the biblical man and woman—the true image bearers—that he called good.

 

Until next time may the good Lord bless and keep you!

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Where Have All The Boys and Girls Gone?

jesus the teacherNothing is ‘black and white’ any longer it seems. The lines have all been blurred. Even in places where the lines could never be blurred, they have been blurred: the sexes. I recently watched an interview of a lady—a psychologist no less—who was raising her child to be neither boy or girl. When the child would ask if he/she was a boy or a girl, the mother would reply, “Whatever you want to be.” We live in a time where gender-lines are as blurred to the point that you never know whether to say yes sir or ye ma’am. The gender-lines are so blurred that US magazine’s woman of the year was a man. No, it’s not the Twilight Zone; it’s the 21st Century. And, in many cases the church is not combating the problem, it is embracing the culture.

Wayne Grudem writes, “The church has been called to counter and bless the culture, not to copy and baptize it. All too often our churches reflect, rather than constructively engage, worldly culture.”[1] Christian Headlines reports that the Baptist church has ordained its first openly transgender pastor.[2] CNN reported in 2010, that the Episcopal Church had ordained its first openly lesbian bishop.[3] Writing in 2006, Grudem simply did not know how true his words were, and would become.

Homes are broken often leading to single parent situations where the child may not have role models of the sex opposite the parent with which he/she lives. Some children are brought up by two parents of the same sex. Television shows flaunt and glamour these alternative lifestyles. And the church, the lighthouse, the guidepost, for the world has all too often has bought into society instead of acting to show society a better. Little Johnny can be all that he can be, and he might just be doing it in a dress, with mutilated genitalia, in a church near you, unless the church steps up and teaches biblical manhood and womanhood.

While the Western church seems willing to allow societal norms to change its stance on many issues, the African church seems to be prepared to take a stronger stance. Father Raphael Adebayo from the Catholic church of Saint Agnes in the Nigerian city of Lagos asserts, “It is impossible for the Church to support something that does not please God. It is clear that homosexuality is an abomination.”[4] We needn’t read further than Genesis 1 to see God’s intended sexual order for his creation: Male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27). And, in Genesis 2 we also see God’s intended picture of marriage: Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24, ESV). God created man and woman. And, they were created for each other.

God created both male and female. He created them for each other. And, he did not create male for male, or female for female. Nor did he create male to become female or female to become male. Yet, in western society there seems to be an abandonment of absolute truth in favor of a relative truth which allows that anything goes. Corradi writes that the new societal delusion is “that gender is a social construct rather than a biological fact. This is the notion that there are no biologically determined characteristics of either sex.”[5] Corradi goes onto to write, “In fact there are no ‘opposite sexes,’ only a gender spectrum between femaleness and maleness (hence the prefix “trans-” in “transgender”), and one may choose to identify oneself with any point on the continuum, or to remain undecided.”[6] Rubano argues that argues that a pastoral sensibility should take into account research into ‘gender creativity’—a term coined by Diane Ehrensaft, adapted from Wincott’s phrase ‘individual creativity’—which would allow for children places of worship to be better sanctuaries for authentic living. He writes, “One way this pastoral sensibility can be expressed is through a gender-creative reading of scripture as a model for advocacy on behalf of gender-nonconforming children.”[7] But, we abandon the created order and throw out biblical manhood and womanhood considering Romans 1:18:  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth (ESV)? Do we change the word and give approval of such practices in light of Romans 1:32: Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them (ESV)?

What does this mean for the church? I worship in what most would call a medium size church, The Church of the Redeemer Anglican Church in Camden, North Carolina. To our east is Elizabeth City, North Carolina; and to our south, the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Both host gay pride events. So, while our church is not in some great metropolitan city, these issues knock at our door, as it knocks at the door of a good many churches. We handle it by making sure with our most vulnerable to fall to deceptive doctrine, we start early teaching biblical manhood and womanhood. Grudem writes, “If we write off, ignore, or distort the Bible’s teaching on gender roles, then we are bound to do so with everything the Bible teaches.”[8] In this era where gender confusion runs amok we cannot afford to do anything less. As schools become more liberal in teaching ‘alternative’ lifestyles and genders on a daily basis, the church has to step up and teach biblical lifestyles—through all of its flawed characters—on its one day a week. It is essential that while preach/teach the way of salvation there be discipleship among all the church members. And, we bring them all back to the order of creation.

Former Bishop of Durham, N. T. Wright asserts, “The last scene in the Bible is the new heaven and the new earth, and the symbol for that is the marriage of Christ and his church. It’s not just one or two verses here and there which say this or that. It’s an entire narrative which works with this complementarity so that a male-plus-female marriage is a signpost or a signal about the goodness of the original creation and God’s intention for the eventual new heavens and new earth.”[9] Our teachings of the generations that will follow us has to be based on the goodness of the original creation. But, we have to be teaching and countering the teaching that comes from the world with the teaching that comes from above. As Wright wrote, “We need to let Paul remind us, precisely when major cultural change is upon us, that our confidence is not in the solidity of Western culture or the basic goodness of modern democracy. Our confidence is in Jesus and him alone.”[10] We have to teach as in many ways society has taken a head start in the indoctrination race.

We pray that God’s will be done “on earth as it is in Heaven,” but is the church acting in such a way that God’s will is being done? In our quest to bring more people into the Kingdom are we allowing the church to mirror society as opposed to changing the world to look like a Kingdom that operates by God’s will? To accept both the homosexual lifestyle and the transgender lifestyle into the church is to change God’s word and to change his bride into what God intended as sin. As these issues become more common place in society, and as the western world tries to change countries in the East to be more like the West, maybe it’s time for the church in the West to look to the church in the East for a biblical understanding of these not so tough issues.

 

Until next time May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You!

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[1] Wayne Grudem, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (Wheaton: Crossway, 2006), Kindle Location 173.

[2] http://www.christianheadlines.com/blog/baptist-church-ordains-first-openly-transgender-preacher.html

[3] http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/05/15/episcopal.lesbian.bishop/index.html

[4] http://www.dw.com/en/little-support-by-african-churches-for-gay-rights/a-16408405.

[5] Richard Corradi, “Transgender Delusion,” First Things 256 (October 2015): 17.

[6] Corradi, 18.

[7] Craig Rubano, “Where Do the Mermaids Stand? Toward a Gender Creative Pastoral Sensibility,” Pastoral Psychology 65 (2016): 822-823.

[8] Wayne Grudem, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (Wheaton: Crossway, 2006), Kindle Location 178-179.

[9] https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2014/06/n-t-wrights-argument-against-same-sex-marriage.

[10] N. T. Wright, Surprised by Scripture: Engaging Contemporary Issues (New York: Harper Collins, 2014), 185.

HERE’S THE DEAL JOB!

job5Job chapter 8 brings in one of my favorite characters: Bildad the Shuhite. It was always the running gag in seminary to ask the incoming freshmen who has the shortest character in the Bible. Of course they would always answer together, “Zacchaeus!” We would correct them right away that it was Bildad, as he was only a Shuhite—a Shoe Height—[insert groan]. But, as chapter 8 seems to bear out, Bildad was short—short in his dealing with Job’s circumstance.

Bildad begins with a technique familiar to Israeli wisdom literature: attack that last speaker’s speech. And in true form and fashion Bildad attacks and does not seem to let up until possibly at the end. If it was thought that Eliphaz was easy on Job, after reading chapter 8 no-one will make that assertion about Bildad.

“How long will you say these things and the words of your mouth be a great wind?” Bildad could have well said, “Come on Job, how much longer are you going to continue speaking all this nonsense?”  Job follows it up with a question—possibly a rhetorical question—asking, “Does God pervert justice?” Yet, that is not exactly Job’s complaint. Job’s lament was that God was treating him rather harshly.

Bildad differs from Eliphaz though in his appeal is to past history and nature to justify his message 8-10. Eliphaz justified his message recanting a dream. Then, in verses 11-19, Blidad launches into a series of rhetorical questions (11-13) and answers/explanations (14-19) to begin closing out his speech.  The bottom line of Bildad’s speech however, is summed up in verse 20: Behold, God will not reject a blameless man [remember we have been told that Job is blameless], nor take the hands of the evildoers. If we think of Israel as the legalists that they have always been made out to be, this might bear some weight. But we have to actually see Israel as they were; they were never ones who believed their salvation was in perfect Law keeping. There was atonement for sins in Israel. Yet, it must be remembered that this story comes before the Law and possibly Israel. So, while we have been told that Job is blameless, there were none who were blameless before God. And, this statement by Bildad, in all his bluntness and shortness sets the stage for Job’s reply in chapter 9.

COLLECT FOR TODAY:

Lord God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ triumphed over the powers of death and prepared for us our place in the new Jerusalem: Grant that we, who have this day given thanks for his resurrection, may praise you in that City of which he is the light, and where he lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Until Next Time, May the Good Lord Bless and Keep you!

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GOD, SAY WHAT?

Looking at Job Chapter Seven

 

saywhatJob begins chapter 7 continuing his discourse; yet the recipient will seem to change. While chapter 6 had Job responding somewhat to Eliphaz, chapter 7  Job’s peroration will become aimed at God. While verse 2:22 asserts, “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong,” the reader now has to determine if the same can be true after reading chapter seven.

            The first pericope of chapter 7 (vv.1-6) begin with the parallelism that is common to Hebrew poetry and has been a feature of the book of Job. Verses 1 and 2 form individual parallel lines while verse 5 and 6 perform the same. Yet, tuck neatly in the middle of all the parallelism are verse 3 and 4. They are written in another vice of Hebrew poetry: chiasm. And, their place in the middle points to Job’s emotional state—because of the misfortunes mentioned in the surrounding verses [this is brought out by the use of conjunction ‘so’ beginning verse 3] (1-2;5-6).

Verses 3 and 4 and their chiastic structure:

             A1                                 B1

V3. so I am allotted         months of emptiness

              B2                                                  A2

      And nights of misery      are appointed me.

 

The center of the chiasm points to emptiness and misery as the emotional components of Job’s current life. Job interestingly forms the next pericope of 7 (7-10) into 2 chiasms—7-8 form the first while 9-10 form the later.

 

 

Verses 7-8:

              A1                                                                              B1

7 Remember that my life is but a breath   my eye will never again see good.

                B2                                                                           A2

8 The eye of him who sees me            will behold me no more.

 

For Job, a man whose life is emptiness and misery, his eyes will never see good again, nor will the eyes of him who sees him—while many attribute the ‘eyes of him who sees me’ as being God, it almost seems a better interpretation to see the ‘eyes …’ as anyone who now sees job including his friends who are taking part in the discussion. If we believe to be able to see all then we would have to concede that God would be able to see Job in sheol—see him anymore, his life is but a breath and will be no more. While it is tempting to want to make an appeal to James 4:14 when interpreting  ‘life is but a breath,’ we should refrain from using the New Testament in interpreting Job—a case could be made however when handling James 4:14 to make an appeal to Job 7:7.

Verse 9-10’

             A1                                                                                  B1

  1. As the cloud fades and vanishes, so he who goes down to sheol does not come up,

             B2                                                                                  A2

  1. He returns to no more to his house, nor does his place know him anymore.

 

 

We now have a man whose life is misery and emptiness, whose eye will never see good any longer, nor will anyone see him any longer because when one goes to sheol—this is not hell but simply the place of the dead—he does not anymore return [This predates resurrection theologies]. Because of this Job feels unrestrained in addressing God at t he beginning of the final pericope of verse 7: “Therefore I will not restrain my mouth.”

            For Job, all of his problems are coming from God, and God does not—in Job’s eyes—want to let up. Job makes this clear in the last pericope of chapter 7.  Job, for all of his problems simply needs a break. He can’t sleep because—in his opinion—God sends bad dreams (v.14). Job just wants God to back off for long enough for him (Job) to swallow his spit (v.19).

            But, what is very interesting in this final passage is this man Job, who is upright and blameless, who is so upright that he makes sacrifices on behalf of his children in case they might have sinned, has now to come to the conclusion that he has sinned and that is the reason for his problems. He seems to have taken Eliphaz’s cause and effect theory to heart: Verse 20- Why do you not pardon my transgressions and take away my iniquity?

            Job has come from being upright to believe he has sinned so bad that God now is tormenting him. And for Job this torment will go on until death—For now I shall lie in the earth, you will seek me, but I shall not be (v.21).

            While we always speak of the “patience of Job,” as we read more into Job that patience seems to have been replaced with bitterness. Job sees himself as man tormented by God. As a result, he lives a life of emptiness and misery—remember this is a man who sum five chapters earlier had it all and was upright before God—he will go to the grave in this condition and all he wants is just a break for the amount of time it would take to swallow his spit.

            We have all been in that situation where it seemed that the ‘bad’ would not let up. It is at that time that cheerful hymns just do not seem to comfort. And, like Job, we seem to feel like the good and gracious God has it out for us. As well, we have all probably been angry at God. And Job is not the only person in the Bible who has felt betrayed by the almighty. Jerimiah said:

 

 

            O Lord, you deceived me, and I was deceived;

                You over powered me and prevailed.

            I am ridiculed all day long;

              Everyone mocks me (Jeremiah 20:7).

 

Bad things happen in a good world and to good people. There are not always, though they definitely can be, the result of cause and effect. And, we will at times get mad at God. As I have been meditating on this chapter, over in England baby Charlie Gard is dying—as a result of a genetic condition [there have been many court cases about him receiving help that would not help him], and it would be safe to assume that his parents, if they are Christians, might have a bit of anger directed towards God. Why would you God not step in and heal this genetic problem; why would you God not allow him to cross the big pond for treatment in the USA; Why would you not step in and let him come home and be well; why would you not step in and let him come home to die? The questions could go on and on, but the point is we all can get angry at God. Some people might not express it as forcefully as Job, while others might express it stronger. But, not matter how it is expressed, we have to see God as sovereign over all creation. We have to remember the word’s that Job has seemed to have forgotten, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil [at this point he has not attributed the evil to God] (v. 2:10)? The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord (1:21).

We serve a good God in an evil world. We, like Job, will receive good. But, like Job, we also will receive bad. While we love God, just like the family member we love, we will at times feel angry his way. But in all things we should remember, blessed be the name of the Lord.

 

Collect for today:

O God, you make us glad with the weekly remembrance of the glorious resurrection of your Son our Lord: Give us this day such blessing through our worship of you, that the week to come may be spent in your favor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Until next time, may the good Lord bless and keep you!

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