Sixth Sunday after Trinity, 2011

Readings:  Is 66:1-2, 10-24; Psalm 98; I John 3:1-8; Matthew 24:23-31

16 February a.d. 2011


Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be always acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.  AMEN.

Three thing jump out at us from this passage:  Love, Sight, Judgement.


BEHOLD!  Hear!  Look!  Listen!  Ponder!

God our father is so determined to encourage us with his love that he sends his holy Apostle to make this announcement:

“Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.”

We ought to feel never-ending astonishment in these words, at this love so complete, so great, so transforming, that men and angels and God himself call us “sons of God.”  How can this be, since by nature and inheritance we were God’s enemies, sinners and sons of the devil?

By the gift of Christ.  We have been made sons of God by Son of God, by the gift of Christ.  By his only begotten Son the Father himself has made peace with us and has removed all barriers removed and given all gifts.

What barriers removed?

  • Guilt of sin
  • Power of sin

What gifts bestowed by this mighty love?

  • Not only peace with God,
  • but we are also adopted as God’s own children, “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ”.  Romans 8:15-17

Everything that was his alone is now ours together.  Everything.  What manner of love is this, that leaves nothing out, withholds nothing, not even his own Son?  Romans 8:32

What about the world?  It does not know us, cannot recognize us, because it refused also to recognize Christ.  John 1:10.

Truth is, world does not WANT to know us.  Two different worlds exist, one world Christian, and one world ungodly.  The one knows not the other.

The world derides those who lead godly lives.  The one despises worldly things; the other gives himself to them.  The one lives for the Superbowl, giving itself to spectacles and entertainment, the prizes of pride, drunkenness, money, anger, lust, power over men.  The world scoffs at those whose heart is fixed on the prizes of Christ’s unseen kingdom.

And least of all do these lovers of the world want to know the Lord Jesus Christ, because he reproves all sin.  Since they love sin, they must despise him, because where Christ enters in the devil and sin flee and the Spirit rules in holiness and righteousness, and they don’t want to let go of their beloved sin.

St. John tells us how to distinguish the godly from the ungodly:  “every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”  The godly keep their eyes on the unseen prize and the unseen Christ, and purify themselves.  They put sin to death, and if a person is not putting sin to death, however slowly the warfare drags on, that person is not a Christian.


“It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him.”

God does not change Christians instantaneously.  When he regenerates us, we become truly the sons of God adopted as completely as we will ever be, possessing all his love, but the change, the regeneration, has only BEGUN in us and is not yet complete.  We are not yet perfect, and will never have shed all our sin until we behold Christ in glory.

How do I know this is what St. John means?  How do I know that he is not arguing that Christians all live in sinless perfection?

By his own words opening this epistle.

  • John 1:8 ¶  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
  • John 2:1b:2.  “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:  And he is the propitiation for our sins…”

“We shall be like him.” That is, we shall be as he is, but “as” is not “equal.”  We will never be the equal of God in his being, wisdom, justice, holiness, goodness, and truth.  Even in glory we will never be perfect as he is perfect, but still we will be like him, we will be “little Christs,” as the model is like the original, because right now the Holy Spirit is conforming us to his image.  Romans 8:29.


The greatest promise of the Scripture, the thing most longed for by fallen and redeemed mankind, is to once again see God face to face as Adam saw him in the garden.  That is our greatest desire.  You find it throughout Scripture

Moses begged God that he might see him, but told him he could not see him and live.  God put him into the cleft of a rock, shaded him with his hands, and let him see only the backside of his glory passing by.  Exodus 33:18-23

Job consoled himself with these words, “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and though worms devour this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.”  Job 19:26

The Psalmist echoes the same promise, “I will behold thy face in righteousness;  I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness.  (Ps. 17:15)

And how many Christians on their death beds have said with St. Paul that their deepest longing is “to be with Christ, which is far better.”  Philippians 1:23.

But think on, “We shall see him as he is.”

  • Not as in this world, “through a glass, darkly.”
  • Not merely the reflection of him through his creation and his Word.
  • Not in the readily-wearied weakness of our flesh.
  • Not with our frail attention.
  • Now with a will weakened and an understanding clouded by sin and emotion, but

As he is.

Triumphant.  Shining as the sun.  Glorious in the favour of the Father, no longer veiled in the weakness of his flesh.  Perfect beyond all our ability to conceive perfection.  We will see what eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath entered into the hearts of men, a vision surpassing all earthly beautifulness.

  • More beautiful than a new calf,
  • more beautiful than gold, than silver,
  • than forests and fields,
  • than high mountains and great plains,
  • more beautiful that the stretching sea,
  • more beautiful than sun or moon or stars or angels,
  • surpassing all those

Because from Christ’s beauty all other beauty flows.

But what we will see when we see Christ does not stop there, because what we see will also change how we see.

We will no longer be looking at a reflection, a promise, a hope, but the reality, the source, the original.  We will see not the truth we imagine, or reason to, but Truth itself, because Christ is the Truth.  And when we see the reality of Christ, all our understanding will be changed because then we will see everything through the lens of Christ himself.

We will be like those angels who longed to look (I Peter 1:12) into the means of the salvation of mankind, who for ages wondered and pondered and guessed at this mystery past finding out, and then at the birth of Christ stood gazing in wonder at this babe with their hands over their mouths, whispering, “THIS is the mystery!  This is the Father’s great salvation!”

After we see Christ, the way we see everything else will change.  Through his perfect holiness we will see our sin, and at last with a full understanding grasp what his forgiveness has done for us.  When we see Christ, we will see all else clearly, and understand perfectly.


Finally, this passage teaches us that there are two kinds of men, and only two – no third group:  the sons of God and sons of the devil – and that a sure and certain judgement is coming.

Sons are called sons because they act just like their father.

SONS OF GOD live not in sinless perfection, never sinning ever, but they are not given to sin.  They are not habitual sinners.  They do not embrace sin as rule of their lives, but they are fighting it, they are becoming more and more like Christ, dead to sin and alive to righteousness.  When they fall down in sin, the stand up in repentance.  That is the pattern of the Christian life, sin and repentance, not sinless perfection.  Everybody knows whose sons they are because they act like their elder brother and their Father.

SONS OF THE DEVIL.  Don’t think the devil is some sort of god equal to the real God.  He’s not.  God created him, and he fell away to evil.  We call them sons of the devil not because the devil created them or has begotten them, but because they act like him.  They hate God and fall away from him and rebel against him.  They embrace sin, they wallow in sin, they alibi for sin, they glory in sin.

The devil wants us to think of him as the comic “man in red tights.”  Thus we we will underestimate his power and his hatred, we discount his power, and thus he more easily fools us, even God’s elect.  But whatever silly ideas the world has for the devil, God warns us about him in the sternest terms:  He is a roaring lion who roams the whole earth looking for souls to devour.  1 Peter 5:8.  That is the reality of the devil.

But that does not mean that we are doomed to be the devil’s victims.  Listen to what St. John teaches us:  “The Son of God was manifested for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.”

At his resurrection Christ already triumphed over the Devil and all his angels.  Colossians 2:13 says he “made a show of them openly, triumphing over them.”

Christ has already made a definitive end of the devil.  He has already broken the power of the devil and all his works, his chief work being the fall and damnation of mankind.  Now, we, the sons of God, are involved merely in Christ’s mopping-up operation.

And lest you forget the Father’s love for you, lest you forget Christ’s triumph over the devil, lest you look at the evil in the seen world around you and forget the unseen Christ that awaits you, Christ himself has given you a reminder, a token and pledge and sign of his love, a vision of himself:  his own body and blood.

And as you partake of that body and blood today, and every other day of your life, you must remind yourself with St. John, “BEHOLD!  What manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!”     ?


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Upgraded from Mission Status

To Official Parish.

We have adopted By Laws, and Our Rector is the proud new owner of a Vestry:

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First Sunday after Easter, 2010

Readings: Isa. 43:1-12; Ps. 103: 1 John 5:4-12; St. John 20:19-23

11 April a. d. 2010


Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be always acceptable in thy sight, 0 LORD, my strength and my redeemer. AMEN.

(Headnote: This morning I re-read the sermon from last week, and could not but notice that in the providence of God, the message of last Sunday and this Sunday is identical: “Fear not! God has prepared glory for you.”

(Eastertide is the season when the implications of our salvation are openly shown: Christ’s divinity & manhood, Christ’s sacrifice, the Resurrection, the reality of our forgiveness and new life – what all that means in our lives. Now, for this Sunday . . . )

“Thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: For I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.” Isaiah 43:1

Here God makes a startling claim to his chosen people: “I created thee, thou art mine. I know thee by thy name.”

Isaiah is speaking to apostate Israel, after he has just said to them, because you are blind and deaf to God’s words, because you have left serving me, the One True God and served idols made by your own hands, I am punishing you. I am sending nations to overrun you. I will all but destroy you for your sin.

Hard on the heels of that announcement comes this amazing statement of ownership, protection, blessing — and glory.

In the tenderest terms God describes how he will walk with them through the water & fire so they come thru dry, unburnt, and unharmed.

Now these same people had abandoned God. They had left obeying him and run after other gods. They had looked for safety in politics and in alliances, in all their own cleverness and devices. From God they had no right to expect protection or love, only fear and punishment and sure destruction: the wrath of God.

And yet, although they are unfaithful, although they are treacherous, God is still faithful to his covenant. God is still merciful. He will make good his promised lovingkindness toward them. And he begins reclaiming them by reminding them who he is:

“Thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: For I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.” Isaiah 43:1

How had he created them? First, he formed them and all men in Adam from dust of the earth.

Second, he had called their ancestors and made them his own peculiar people in a covenant made spontaneously and voluntarily from his side. That covenant promised their final redemption from the Fall and eternal life with him.

Think: every one whom God has called and named is his own private possession, and he will not lose a single one of them. No one can pluck them out of his hand. (John 10:27-29).

So? What does thie mean to you and me? God’s speech to the Israelites is old news from the seventh century before Christ, 27 centuries old.

But wait: Who is God is addressing? Jacob? Israel? Why, by the time Isaiah is speaking Jacob had been dead hundreds of years, so God is talking about something much bigger than merely bringing a particular people back to a particular land. No, this is a message about his grace and favour towards all his chosen throughout all time. This incident is only one example of his working in history.


Whomever God has called to be his own, he created for his own glory. “I have created him for my glory, I have formed him, yea, I have made him.”

How is God’s glory revealed in them? In their redemption from sin, from death, & from every enemy of God and man. In Isaiah’s prophecies these are the Assyrians to the North, the Edomites to the east, the Chaldeans to the South, and the Canaanites and Egyptians to the west.

But more than in this single time-bound instance of salvation, God’s glory will be revealed in saving all those he loves & in resurrecting them to eternal life with him, just as old Israel was once returned to its home in the promised land.

How is this all possible? Because the eternal Son of God took on a man’s flesh, made under the law as a descendant of Jacob. Jesus Christ the Son of God made himself a creature to reveal his father’s glory in redeeming all the faithful from sin and death. As a man, he fulfilled perfectly all the duties of God’s covenant with Israel, and by his death on the cross offered mankind a new and perfected covenant, a New Testament in his own blood, shed to save the world.

This Jesus, true God and true man, rose again from the dead on the third day as the firstfruits, the first harvest, of all those whom God will raise from the dead to eternal life. He rose again as the new Adam of a new human race, redeemed from sin as the New Israel. He is the head of a new, mystical Body of all the redeemed from every age, a Body that fulfils all the promises that his father made to his human ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob, who themselves now live forever in and by him.

Jesus Christ fulfils every prophecy in the Old Testament. Every word in the Old Testament points to him. To have faith in Jesus means to believe that he fulfils all God’s promises. Remember our Gospel from last week?

“These are the words that I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms concerning me. Then opened he their understanding that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, & thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:45-47).

The whole Old Testament reveals God’s will, to redeem mankind for his own glory. The New Testament is the record of how Jesus Christ fulfilled that.

Now why did God wait so long? Or, why didn’t he wait longer? We cannot know but we can know this: this was for God “the fullness of time”, this was the time and place that the Father chose to fulfil his purpose and reveal his glory.

Now why wasn’t Jesus born rich? A prince? Roman Emperor. The Father willed otherwise, using the worst of a fallen world and fallen humanity to glorify himself through his Son and to give us life and grace and hope.


Now with Jesus’ life in mind, think about yourself. Why weren’t you born rich? Why weren’t you born a prince? Why did God direct every moment of your life, every event, every circumstance, every coincidence, every gene in your body for thousands of generation to form you just exactly as you are?

Why didn’t God give you one of those lives where the wind is in your sails & you ease from success to success with ne’er a cross word or failure or slip? Why did God give you this cross to bear, this cross of poverty or disease or nearsightedness or persecution? Why did God order all of history so that you would end up exactly who you are and exactly when and where you are?

Why? Not because he wants to destroy you, but because he created you for glory. How? By your bearing your cross through the power of the Holy Spirit & the blood of Christ. That brings him glory and that brings you glory.

Fear not! God the Father created us for his glory, so what greater goal can we have than to live for his glory? If we seek first the glory of the kingdom of God, exactly as our Lord Jesus Christ sought it, then we will be able to bear all our crosses, because he will make us able to, and we will glorify him.

Think of it, imagine it: We will be exactly what God created us to be, what he has formed us to be every minute of our lives, we will fulfil God’s purpose for our creation. Our lives will become one continuous act of praise, and we will share in the glory of our risen Lord, to the endless glory of his Father. W
Glory be to the Father,

And to the Son,

And to the Holy Ghost.

As it was in the beginning,

Is now and ever shall be,

World without end, Amen.

The Collect for the First Sunday after Easter


who hast given thine only Son to die for our sins,

and to rise again for our justification;

Grant us so to put away the leaven

of malice and wickedness,

that we may always serve thee in pureness

of living and truth;

through the merits of the same

thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

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Jesus the Uncontrollable

Easter, 2010

Readings: Is 25:1-9; Ps. 93; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-10.

4 April a. d. 2010

Jesus the Uncontrollable

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be always acceptable in thy sight, 0 LORD, my strength and my redeemer. AMEN.
Jesus won’t stay put. Just about the time you think you’ve got him fixed in place, he disappears. Or, when you think you have safely escaped him, he pops up in front of you. When you think you’ve got him scoped out and understand him, he baffles you. He simply refuses to play by any rules but his own, or to be satisfied with whatever we are willing to give him. Jesus is utterly inconsiderate of your wants and feelings.


Just when the disciples thought they understood and knew Jesus, they found out they didn’t know him at all, and had never understood him. They didn’t even understand the Scripture that he quoted. Even though they had spent three years walking with him every day, they still didn’t believe him.

Mary Magdalene had been mourning for Jesus. She had cried all night. Early in the morning, before daylight, she goes to his tomb. At least she can weep closer to his body, to whatever is left of him.

But when she arrives, the tomb has been opened! She peeks in, and sees an angel, who asks her why she is there, looking for the living among the dead.

Jesus won’t stay put. He won’t even stay dead.

Mary runs as fast as her feet will carry her to the disciples, but they don’t believe her. She doesn’t believe the angel, but tells Peter and John that somebody has stolen Jesus’ body. They run back to the tomb as fast as their feet will carry them.

Looking in, they see the grave clothes, and the napkin they had wrapped around Jesus’ face crumpled up and thrown to the other side of the tomb.

Jesus had not stayed put.

Yet for all this evidence, they were baffled. Jesus had told them many times that he must suffer and die and rise again, but the disciples had never understood, and certainly they had never believed Jesus’, well, crazy story about resurrection. We know for a fact that the disciples did not believe because the Bible tells us so. “Their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.” Luke 24:11 Even after they looked in and saw the tomb empty, Peter still didn’t believe, only John.

Oh, eventually the disciples would believe, even doubting Thomas. They would believe because Jesus himself would come to them in their fear and unbelief and appear to them, and even shove his wounds in front of them and make them poke their fingers in so they could be 100% sure it wasn’t a trick.

That’s one of the best things about our faithful Saviour. He doesn’t leave us in unbelief. He comes and visits us and shoves his wounds in front of us to prove that he really is who he claims to be.


I know that on Easter we think that we are celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection, but we are not. We are celebrating our own resurrection, and our own crucifixion, and our own death.

That is what Jesus, speaking through his Word, teaches us, but it is so difficult for us to believe, such an all-embracing, penetrating claim of ownership that we are willing to settle for a lot less than everything Jesus desires for us. We bargain with Jesus.

“Jesus, I don’t really want to die with you. I mean, I want to live with you, but I really don’t want to put my flesh to death, not yet. Sure, I’m a Christian, but I’m not a fanatic.

“Jesus, you just don’t get the whole picture of my life. I have a lot of things going on right now, and I’m just too busy to die. I have so many things I love doing right here on this earth, and I just don’t want to give all that up and die, not yet. Later sure, I know we all have to die, but not now. And that cross. I’ll get around to picking that up, but later. Not now”

It won’t wash. The All-powerful Lord of Heaven and Earth won’t bargain with you. He wants all of you. He died to pay for you, and you belong to him, and he will have you.

Besides, you have already died with him, in baptism. “Ye are dead, and your life is hid in Christ.” You do not, cannot, and can never have any life apart from him. You try, and he will come find you and claim you. He may leave you there a while, even a long while, but Jesus will show up to claim his own.

And because you have died with Jesus in baptism, you have risen again with him, to a new life. And all those things you loved, all those sins and vices your flesh couldn’t live without, you have to die to them, too.

How will this ever happen? Knowing how strong the pull of your sin is, how powerful its hold on your life — whatever your particular sin may be, and you certainly know what it is, whether sexual sin, anger, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication, lying, drunkenness, inordinate affection, evil desires, covetousness — how can you ever put your flesh to death?

What Christ commands, he also enables. Listen, Christ is seated at the Father’s right hand and you are seated there with him. Do you think he will let you fail?

He tells you how your death to the world begins: “set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” You have to change what you love, and love things above.

But what about all those things I love on earth? What about my wife, my husband, my children, my work? Don’t I have a duty to love them? Beloved, Christ is not saying you shouldn’t love those things, only that you must understand and hold them as gifts, as mirrors, as reflections, of that love that originates only from above, not on earth. Jesus is not taking anything away from you, he is giving you more, infinitely more, than you already have.

Beloved, two thousand years after the Resurrection, Jesus still won’t stay put. He won’t stay put in your life, and he won’t stay put in history. Jesus will come back. He refuses to remain conveniently out of sight, and one day he will return.

And when he appears again, you who died with him, you who have risen with him, you whose life is hid with him in God, you who have fixed your minds on thing above, will also appear with him, not with the chains of your flesh, not with earthbound affections, but with the glory of Jesus Christ himself. W

Glory be to the Father,

And to the Son,

And to the Holy Ghost.

As it was in the beginning,

Is now and ever shall be,

World without end, Amen.

The Collect for Easter Day


who through thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ

hast overcome death,

and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life;

We humbly beseech thee

that, as by thy special grace preceding us,

thou dost put into our minds good desires,

so by thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect;

through the same Jesus Christ our Lord,

who liveth and reigneth

with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God,

world without end. Amen.

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Jesus the Inconvenient

Great Vigil of Easter, 2010
3 April a. d. 2010

Readings: Ps 27; 1 Peter 3:17; Matthew 27:57.

Jesus the Inconvenient

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be always acceptable in thy sight, 0 LORD, my strength and my redeemer. AMEN.

Jesus was a liability. An embarrassment.

First, he wouldn’t keep mouth shut. Criticized Pharisees & Sadducees, his own people. Worse yet, he hung around with sinners and for them had good things to say.

Second, he wouldn’t stay put, & couldn’t be kept out of sensitive areas. First in the desert, then in Galilee, then Jerusalem, & next thing you know, he’s in the Temple driving out established businessmen & creating riot. Always turns up wherever least expected & least wanted.

Third, he was intolerant. He insisted on having everything his own way. No talking to Jesus.

Everything about him was inconsiderate, and just plain inconvenient. You just couldn’t get along with him except on his terms.

And now, even in death he is an embarrassment:

Embarrassment to Pilate – evidence of his lack of control over those whom he ought to rule. Evidence of how the Jews could manipulate him even into condemning a man he knew innocent. Evidence of another defeat at the Jews’ hands.

Embarrassment to his own followers – because there he hung, dead, undeniably room temperature dead, after they had given up everything to follow him. Now they had lost everything, and Jesus he was dead.

Embarrassment to the Jews – reminder of their crime in putting an innocent man to death. Reminder of their inability to answer him while alive. Reminder of all their trouble with him. Now in death still trouble, a body hanging from a cross that must be removed or it would defile all their religious observances for the Passover holiday.

So when Joseph of Arimathea shows up at Pilate’s palace begging for Jesus’ body, Pilate is only too glad to give it to him. “Sure – take it. Get him out of sight and into the ground. Let’s put end his inconvenient career once and for all.

Then Joseph and his friends take the corpse to Josephs’ new tomb, lay it there wrapped in a winding sheet, and then roll the stone over the opening and go home. It’s too late to do anything else, and that puts a period to Jesus’ whole short, disturbing, disappointing, & inconvenient career.

But even in the tomb Jesus is still inconvenient to the Jews. When they hear about his burial, they are furious – and afraid. Jesus dead could be even more inconvenient than Jesus alive.

They hurry to Pilate and whine, “While he was alive that deceiver said that after 3 days he would rise again. You need to seal that tomb and make sure it stays sealed until the third day passes. Otherwise, his disciples will sneak in there and steal the body and tell the people that he is risen from the dead. That will be a mess! Then we’ll be worse off than we were before we crucified him.”

But Pilate is fed up with them and their whining, and not in any mood to cooperate. “You have your own guard—go, seal it best you can and you guard it.”

So the chief priests and Pharisees hustle to the tomb and install seals on it, and leave a guard to watch it.

And that would be the last they ever saw of that inconvenient Jesus.

Glory be to the Father,
And to the Son,
And to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning,
Is now and ever shall be,
World without end, Amen.

The Collects for Easter

Almighty GOD,
who for our redemption didst give
thine only begotten Son to the death of the Cross,
and by his glorious resurrection hast delivered us
from the power of our enemy;
Grant us so to die daily from sin,
that we may evermore live with him
in the joy of his resurrection;
through the same thy Son Christ our Lord. Amen.

O God, who madest this most holy night
to shine with the glory of our LORD’s resurrection:
Stir up in that Church
that Spirit of adoption given to us in Baptism,
that we, being renewed both in body and mind,
may worship thee in sincerity and truth;
through Jesus Christ our LORD,
who liveth and reigneth with thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and evermore. Amen.

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