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Archive for December, 2014

From Dr. Martin Luther’s Large Catechism, The Lord’s Prayer, the prayer petition, “Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread:

“But this petition is especially directed also against our chief enemy, the devil. For all his thought and desire is to deprive us of all that we have from God, or to hinder it; and he is not satisfied to obstruct and destroy spiritual government in leading souls astray by his lies and bringing them under his power, but he also prevents and hinders the stability of all government and honorable, peaceable relations on earth. There he causes so much contention, murder, sedition, and war, also lightning and hail to destroy grain and cattle, to poison the air, etc. In short, he is sorry that any one has a morsel of bread from God and eats it in peace; and if it were in his power, and our prayer (next to God) did not prevent him, we would not keep a straw in the field, a farthing in the house, yea, not even our life for an hour, especially those who have the Word of God and would like to be Christians.”

I will use Luther’s quote above for the basis of  my  review  of the year now passing.

Has the devil obstructed and destroyed spiritual government, that is the Church, in “…leading souls astray by his  lies and bringing them under his power” in 2014?  Yes, it seems that many denominations have solidified their acquiescence, even abdication to the devil and his empty promises by denying basic Scriptural doctrines, e.g. marriage and family life as given by God, life (abortion), greed as desirable (see prosperity preachers), worship as entertainment, not as worship, that is, receiving God’s gifts of grace in Word and Sacrament…and there is probably more. False doctrine has become public and accepted dogma, even to the point, that those who are faithful to the Word of God, especially written, that is, the Bible, are derided as fundamentalist, dogmatic, and narrow-minded. Year-end prediction:  This derision will continue in 2015 and probably become worse especially with gay advocacy.

Has the devil hindered “the stability of all government”, that is the political realm? Yes, it seems so:  from the denial of the basic law of the land, the Constitution to the public desire for a strong ruler to usurp the rule of law.  Abroad, the terrorist fear has grown exponentially with the rise of ISIS, the devil’s own, causing a total breakdown of law and order in many Middle Eastern nations.  In addition, the very nature of 24/7 media and internet thrives on any lack of peace and harmony, as in the old newspaper saying, “if it bleeds, it leads”.  I would think the media wants unrest because that is what keeps us glued to our television and computer screens, even if nothing is really happening in the world. The result is clear, as Luther states,  “…so much contention, murder, sedition, and war” and in even cataclysms in the natural world.  

The second part of Luther’s teaching regarding the upheavals in the natural world is probably beyond the ken for us moderns/post-modern science oriented men and women.  Yet the wind and wave does cause fear because we arrogantly assume we should be controlling everything, including even the weather (! and chuckle) and it galls the petty tyrant, Man, that he is not in control. So we don’t want to control our selves.  As a Facebook friend commented, “…we believe we cannot and should not, control ourselves, not even a little bit. We want to live as both gods and beasts – but not as men”.   Year-end prediction:  This lack of stability and order, and the  lack of peace will keep on the upcoming year, especially with terrorism.

What are we to do in 2015?

In one sense, nothing.  “Be still and now that I am God” (Psalm 46: 10).  We need to be still and calm. A constantly moving cup can not be filled.  “Getting off the grid” is a luring proposition but it will result in hermits, not a people fighting for what is good in the world.  Nevertheless, from some of the grid we can fast.  For instance, less time in being constantly angry at the way things are by being churned daily by our favorite commentators, radio shows, columnists, websites and the like. As it is written in Scripture:

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak,slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1)

Christians, as men and women of the Word, Incarnate, written and spoken, are called to revolve  around the Lord and in His Word, as the earth circles the sun.  Man’s anger simply does not produce the righteousness of God, only Jesus Christ and His righteousness produces our righteousness and the love of the Word of God, for He loves all mankind.  He has shown us His love on the Cross and more, His love has poured through the Holy Spirit in the preaching of the Gospel.  The light of His Word is “implanted” as a seed.  

So in another sense we are to do much, and what that is,  Luther makes clear:  pray. Prayer is next to God, He commands prayer, inspires prayer, and teaches prayer, as in the Our Father and the Psalms.  People of His Word are then people of their word. His salvation by His Son produces meekness, that is humility, knowing that the Lord is God which  means, we are not!  He will see us through the dark night of no stars. In prayer to the Lord who prayed as man and God, in perfect union, we will be a different people as He said, like salt and light in the world, for the world, but never of the world.

Luther wrote his assessment of his time and it was the 16th century and so it is in the 21st Century.  We are only here by God’s grace alone.  Truly,

“God’s Word forever shall abide,  No thanks to foes, who fear it;
For God himself fights by our side  With weapons of the Spirit.

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Isaiah 33:

The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high;
    he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness,
and he will be the stability of your times,
    abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge;
    the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.

 “The Lord is the stability of your times.”  This is another of the great and precious promises of God to Israel and us as well.  When Isaiah preached the times were not stable.  A great superpower was threatening to devour the Northern Kingdom of Israel because Israel was devouring itself in idolatry and immorality. It thought only of itself, as if the people had saved themselves time and time again.  They thought they were good, and they had another think coming.  The Lord preached His Word of Law and Promise through Isaiah.

and he will be the stability of your times,
    abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge

He gives us, teaches, fills  us with the abundance of salvation, wisdom and knowledge of His Word.  You can be poor and abundantly wealthy in the Lord.  You can be abundantly wealthy and without the Lord, in extreme poverty. His time is now our time in these times.  He entered time, the Son of the Most High, born of the Virgin Mary. Born in poverty to give the abundance of His grace, that is, salvation, wisdom and knowledge,  for He loveth mankind. He came to redeem the time for the times are evil.

When I read this Scripture from Isaiah in the daily devotions, I thought of the meme showing the nativity, the Star of Bethlehem and the saying:  The Word Needs a Stable Influence. Do you need a stable influence in your life?  We all do.  There are  no sure things in Las Vegas or Washington or Wall Street.  There is only one Rock, one sure thing, a baby born this night. Our world and our times are not stable.  In fact, politicians, elected leaders, media pundits and gurus try to make things unstable to get their way.  Jesus is born not to merely  get His way but to be the Way, the truth and the life, the only way to the Father.  When Jesus was born, the most powerful man on earth, Caesar Augustus had declared the Pax Romana, the Roman peace.  Under the sway of the sword of Caesar, the world had peace, but it was not the everlasting peace until the prince of peace was born. The Lord used Caesar for the Lord’s purpose:  so His Son could be born in the right in the right city,  His city, the City of David because the promise was that the Messiah would be the son of David per the Lord’s promise that a son of David would sit on the throne forever and ever. Bethlehem is the birthplace of David.  The right place and time, real time, under the years of Augustus’ peace the stability of our times was born.

Rabbi Abraham Heschel:

“There was a moment when God looked at the universe made by Him and said: ‘It is good.’  But there was no moment in which God could have looked at the history made by man and said: ‘It is good’”.

The Lord entered real time, unstable time, our times, our history.  Jesus born and laid in a feeding trough to save us from our history that is from our sin.  The moment He is born He begins to bear the sin of the world.  The government was upon His shoulder. Augustus declared more taxation.  He would get his way. He and his descendents would again engage in war and the horror of war’s chaos.  Pr. Johann Gerhard, 17th century, preached well on this taxation:

This Child born to us, has His kingdom upon His shoulder. First of all, it is understood that with the kingdom of this newly born little Child and King there is a different situation than with the kingdoms of this world. This Child takes us, the subjects of His kingdom, upon His shoulder and carries us; whereas, usually the kings of this world lie on the necks of their subjects and frequently squeeze them by means of taxation. Contrariwise, this King does indeed not burden us; rather, He picks us up and carries us, depicting Himself in Luke 15:4ff as a faithful Shepherd who lays us, His lambs, upon His shoulders and carries us.

There was another moment when the Lord said it was good:  When His Son was born of Mary. The birth announcement was the hymn of heaven, Glory to God in the Highest!  Pagan magi from the East followed the star and worshipped Him.   Jesus was not born to go slumming with mankind but to show the fullness of mankind as God created and redeemed it beginning with Abraham and finally and fully in the seed of Abraham, Jesus. He said it was good again when His Son was baptized in the Jordan as the Holy Spirit descended and the Father: This is my beloved Son.  The Father said it again when Jesus was transfigured, This is my beloved Son, listen to Him.  The Lord loves those whom He created and He entered creation, which is good despite what have done to it and do to it and ourselves.  Lutheran Pastor Chad Bird blogged well:

The incarnation is not so much God-made-small as it is man-made-big. The God who made man in His own image outdoes Himself: He makes Himself into His own image and thereby exalts us. Jesus becomes what you are—a woman’s child—that He might make you what He is—a son of the Father. That’s what this is all about. One small step for God, one giant leap for mankind. He becomes no less, but we become infinitely more in Him.

He was conceived of the Virgin Mary without the help of man. He saved us without the help of fallen men and women but through His beloved Son, in all our humanity, yes beginning as a babe.  He knew all the times of our life, of family, business and every stage of life,  and even in old age as He bore our old sin upon the Cross.  He entered fully into our time that our time is in His hands, first his infant hands and then in the hands bearing the scars of the Cross. His life, from womb to tomb, is the stability of our times, the abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge.

Anytime I have been on a retreat, I first look at the schedule, the times for prayer, Communion, Bible studies…but I have to admit that the first thing I looked for on the schedule  is “free time”. Free time is the time to do with as it pleases me…so I guess I was saying by free time that  prayer, communion, Bible studies are slave time?  Of course their not, the Lord works through His Word, preached, taught, drank, eaten, washed over a child or an adult in Baptism.  Manumission. His forgiveness is our manumission, not in soul alone but body and soul that our bodies are the Temple of Holy Spirit.  Christ was born for this.  My time, on it’s own, is anything but freeing. His time is freeing time in the grace of His forgiveness, the grace of God bringing salvation to all people, training us to…

renounce ungodliness and wordly passions, to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus)

The apostle has described precisely stability, the Lord who is the stability of our times and in our lives standing on noble things, anything that is of worth and praise, for all that is good is from God.  We can live stable lives in the One born in a stable.  We do so not to be saved  but because  but because we are saved in Him the  light shining in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. He said nothing as infant to give us all of His Father.  He has given to us the gift of Himself, the Son born for us,  the light of the world, love’s pure light, shining forth in these dark days, for those who know the tumult, needing an anchor, have a sure one, the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guards your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

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Christmas Meme

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Latin:

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,
quem de limo formasti.

English:

O King of the nations 1, and Desired of all
the cornerstone 2 that binds two into one :
Come and save the man,
which you fashioned from clay 3.

1   Revelation 1: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.

2   1Peter 2: For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
    a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone”

3    Genesis 2: then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

 Isaiah 64:  But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

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  Almighty and ever-living God, You strengthened Your apostle Thomas with firm and certain faith in the resurrection of Your Son. Grant us such faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that we may never be found wanting in Your sight; through the same Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  

Appointed Scripture for this day:  

Judge 6:  36-40

Psalm 139: 1-12

Romans 10: 8b-15

St. John 1:  35-42a

All four Gospels mention St. Thomas as one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. John’s Gospel, which names him “the Twin,” uses Thomas’s questions to reveal truths about Jesus. It is Thomas who says, “Lord, we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way?” To this question Jesus replies, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:5-6). John’s Gospel also tells how Thomas, on the evening of the day of Jesus’ resurrection, doubts the report of the disciples that they had seen Jesus. Later, “doubting Thomas” becomes “believing Thomas” when he confesses Jesus as “my Lord and my God” (John 20:24-29). According to tradition, Thomas traveled eastward after Pentecost, eventually reaching India, where still today a group of people call themselves “Christians of St. Thomas.” Thomas was martyred for the faith by being speared to death. (Collect and Intro from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:

The first Latin words  of this Great O Antiphon is: “O Oriens”.  “Oriens” can be variously translated,”Dawn”, “Rising Dawn”, “Rising Sun”, “Dayspring” etc. “Oriens” is the Latin basis of our words, both noun and verb, “orient”.  We are oriented facing the east…for from the East has come our Savior. “Orient” can mean both “east’ and the “rising sun”. I find it most interesting the ancient understanding that we are found facing East, from which has come the Light of the Word. The west has been considered in Church history as the haunt of the demonic.  In the eastern Orthodox Churches, in a Baptism, the catuchemen will face the west and the priest will physically turn him toward the east:

The sponsor, holding the child who is to be baptized, faces to the west (rear of the Church); as does the Priest, who asks the following questions thrice and they are to be answered each time by the sponsor.

PRIEST: Dost thou renounce Satan, and all his Angels, and all his works, and all his service, and all his pride?

SPONSOR: (Replies for the child) I do.

PRIEST: Hast thou renounced Satan?

SPONSOR: I have.

PRIEST: (Once) Breathe and spit upon him.

The sponsor, holding the child, then turns to face the east (toward the Altar); as does the Priest, who asks the following questions thrice and they are to be answered each time by the sponsor.

PRIEST: Dost thou unite thyself unto Christ?

SPONSOR: I do.

PRIEST: Hast thou united thyself unto Christ?

SPONSOR: I have.

PRIEST: (Once) Dost thou believe in Him?

SPONSOR: I believe in Him as King and God.

We all need to be so oriented.  We need to spit upon the devil and his empty promises (from the Lutheran Baptismal rite) who wants us lost, disbelieving in Christ and found in his unholy kingdom. Thomas was not with the apostles when the Lord  first appeared.  It was not until 8 days later that Thomas was  with the Apostles, the Church. Apart from Christ, Thomas was lost and in the dark.  Apart from the utter grace of God, we are lost.  Thomas was disoriented and firm in his disbelief and error. He was  in a sense a thoroughly going modern man.  The number 8 is the days of the week plus one and is a sign of fulfilllment. Thomas said he would not believe unless he could put his hands in the Savior’s wounds.  When the Lord appeared in the locked room, the Lord invited Thomas to put his hands in His Wounds.  Then Thomas cried out, My Lord and my God.  Thomas believed and he confessed Jesus is very God from very God who in His wounds bore the sin of the world:  the Lamb of God.  His Wounds are the light of the Savior and our salvation, “…to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death”.  We live in a disoriented time and culture that has lost its way, and lost its Way which chooses the way of death in its video games, its movies and in abortuaries.  May the Way of Christ, the truth and the life, be our light day by day orienting us toward His Kingdom!  Roman Catholic theologian,Hans urs von Balthassar wrote that in this dark,moonless night, it makes to sense not to use the flashlight the Lord has given us.  Oriens…East and Sun and Son:Christ was born for this.

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O God, our refuge and strength, You raised up Your servant Katharina to support her husband in the task to reform and renew Your Church in the light of Your  Word. Defend and purify the Church today and grant that, through faith, we may boldly support and encourage our pastors and teachers of the faith as they proclaim and administer the riches of Your grace made known in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Katharina von Bora(1499–1552) was placed in a convent when still a child and became a nun in 1515. In April 1523 she and eight other nuns were rescued from the convent and brought to Wittenberg. There Martin Luther helped return some to their former homes and placed the rest in good families. Katharina and Martin were married on June 13, 1525. Their marriage was a happy one and blessed with six children. Katharina skillfully managed the Luther household, which always seemed to grow because of his generous hospitality. After Luther’s death in 1546, Katharina remained in Wittenberg but lived much of the time in poverty. She died in an accident while traveling with her children to Torgau in order to escape the plague. Today is the anniversary of her death. (Collect and Intro fromThe Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

 

Martin Luther’s Home The Luther family, wife and six children, and various students and visitors lived in the central part of the building. He was given the building by one of the aristocrats supporting his movement.

There were many people at one given time for dinner or to stay.  Students, pastors fleeing from oppression, friends and dignitaries were guests in Luther’s home and Frau Luther took care of them all, overseeing a house staff.  Luther would preach in their home, and the those sermons are called “hausepostilles”, or house sermons.  In a 3 volume edition of Luther’s Hauspostils is a little bit more about Katharina von Bora:

The HAUSPOSTILLE, or house postils or sermons, need to be distinguished from Luther’s KIRCHENPOSTILLE, or church postils. The term “postil” itself derives out of the Latin phrase post ilia verba textus, “after those words of the text,” and refers to the commentary or homily which followed upon the reading of the standard pericope, the Gospel or Epistle, by the preacher at the service of worship. ..The house postils or sermons, on the other hand, which constitute the volumes of our translation, were delivered by Luther in the intimate circle of his family members and a few others. The Luther household was often quite extensive—a real test for Katie’s ingenuity at balancing the family budget!—because of relatives, students, and associates who were domiciled there or regularly present at Luther’s elbow for one reason or another.

We have narrowed our focus on the so-called HAUSPOSTILLE of Luther, the sermons which he delivered in the famous Lutherhalle, or Luther house, in Wittenberg, the old monastery of the Augustinians. Luther had been a member of this monastic order since 1506 when he completed a one-year probationary novitiate, and in a sense he really felt he had not left it until June 13, 1525when he married Katharine von Bora, who had been a nun. Luther had lived in the old monastery ever since joining the faculty at Wittenberg in 1511. Here he had his living quarters, often preached for the Augustinian chapter, and eventually also delivered his lectures as professor of Biblical theology at the university. Elector Frederick the Wise had designated the old monastery to be the family home for Luther and Katie, as Martin affectionately called his bride. She was up to the challenge, and with him established a model parsonage family and home. Together they rejoiced over a circle of six children that gladdened their hearts, but then also saddened them when Elizabeth died as an infant and Magdalene as a vivacious teenager.

Reflection:

Katharina von Bora was by no means a modern or a post-modern woman.  She is the antithesis of the so-called ‘liberated’ feminist.  She did not seek to “find herself”.  She did not “shop till she dropped”.  She could not have fathomed having an abortion.  She was not  “self-fulfilled” and yet she could run a household the size of a small business. She was not looking to smash “glass ceilings”. Women today seek in this zeitgeist (“spirit of an age”) is also what men look for in our so-called ‘enlightened’ age  and it is certainly not what our Lord says:  deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Me.

Frau Luther was no nun.   You can not find a word about nuns in the Bible but much about wives and mothers who were heroes of the faith in Old and New Testaments:  Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel…Mary.  She was not ‘holy’ by her self-chosen ‘spirituality’ and holy deeds  but made holy by her faith in Jesus Christ lived in her domestic vocation. She was the antithesis in some ways of a Mother Teresa. Katharina is the model of woman that pertains to all of humankind and those of the household of faith:  fathers and mothers and their children and the 4th and 6th Commandments.  We need to look more at a saint like Katharina than a Teresa.  

The crescendo of Proverbs is the last chapter, 38 and it is all about wives and mothers. I think Frau Luther  epitomized this last chapter of the book of Proverbs.  God be praised for all faithful wives and mothers who confess Jesus Christ!

10 An excellent wife who can find?
   She is far more precious than jewels.
11The heart of her husband trusts in her,
   and he will have no lack of gain.
12She does him good, and not harm,
   all the days of her life.
13She seeks wool and flax,
   and works with willing hands.
14She is like the ships of the merchant;
   she brings her food from afar.
15She rises while it is yet night
   and provides food for her household
   and portions for her maidens.
16She considers a field and buys it;
   with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17She dresses herself with strength
   and makes her arms strong.
18She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
   Her lamp does not go out at night.
19She puts her hands to the distaff,
   and her hands hold the spindle.
20She opens her hand to the poor
   and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21She is not afraid of snow for her household,
   for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
22She makes bed coverings for herself;
   her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23Her husband is known in the gates
   when he sits among the elders of the land.
24She makes linen garments and sells them;
   she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
   and she laughs at the time to come.
26She opens her mouth with wisdom,
   and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27She looks well to the ways of her household
   and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28Her children rise up and call her blessed;
   her husband also, and he praises her:
29“Many women have done excellently,
   but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
   but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31Give her of the fruit of her hands,
   and let her works praise her in the gates.

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O Clavis David:

O Key of David and scepter of the house of Israel, You open and no one can close. You close and no one can open:  Come and rescue the prisoners whoa re in darkness and the shadow of death.

Isaiah had prophesied, I will place the Key of the House of David on His shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open.” (22:22), and “His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over His kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever.”(9:6). In the Book of Revelation (Apocalypse), the Key is the Lord’s Resurrection: 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me,saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.  The most significant and even dramatic time of the mention of keys, the Key of David is after Peter, by apocalypse of the Father, confesses Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Matthew 16:18-20

Reflection: His Nativity is the key-note address of the Gospels and our lives together in His.  It sets the  theme of the fulfillment of the promises of the Scriptures.  As in:  shepherds are told of the birth of the Lord, the Good Shepherd, son of David the Shepherd King.   As in:  magi, Gentiles come to worship Him so that the Word goes forth from Zion.  As in:  the gift of myrrh, a spice used for burial.  As in:  the old Zechariah praising God and saying He will give us knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of our sins. As in: the government will be upon His shoulder and the slaughter of the Holy Innocents.  He is the Key of our forgiveness and eternal life for us and our salvation and the salvation of all. He has the key to your heart.

Oh, come, O Key of David, come, 
And open wide our heav’nly home; 
Make safe the way that leads on high, 
And close the path to misery. 
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel 
Shall come to you, O Israel!

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