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Why I Am NOT Anxious About the Election:

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Dawn at Concordia

Devotional Thought of the Day:

31 “So do not start worrying: ‘Where will my food come from? or my drink? or my clothes?’ 32(These are the things the pagans are always concerned about.) Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things. 33Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things. 34So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings.  Matt. 6:31-34 TEV

1  You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2  Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory!
Colossians 3:1-4 (TEV)

To speak about “heaven”, therefore, does not mean to lapse into rapturous fantasy but rather to learn to know more deeply that hidden presence that lets us truly live and that we continually allow to be masked and withdrawn from us by whatever is in the foreground of our awareness. Heaven, consequently, is above all Christological. It is not an extra-historical place “into which” we go. The very existence of “heaven” depends on the fact that Jesus Christ, as God, is man and has given human existence a place in the existence of God himself (cf. Rahner, Schriften II, p. 221). One is in heaven when and to the degree that one is in Christ, where one finds the true location of one’s existence as a human being in the existence of God himself. Heaven is, then, primarily a personal reality. It remains forever stamped by its historical origin in the Easter mystery of death and Resurrection. (1)

110 hours from now, people will be shattered.  

The reason they will be shattered is that the media and the social media is making this election sound like the end of the world could occur if one of the two were elected.  I even see articles about no matter which are elected; the American life is over as we know it.

No matter who is triumphant, no matter who is crushed by defeat, no matter how depressing this election campaign season is, there is something far more important.  There is something that neither candidate can affect.  There is always an opportunity to know peace in the middle of the storm.

Jesus is clear about that in Matthew’s gospel.  Your anxiety, your fear, your angst about the candidates will not change anything, from the outcome of the election to the number of hairs on your head.

You’ve prayed for God to provide you the necessities of life, your daily bread, trust Him on that.  You’ve asked Him to have His will be done as well – again, this is something we can depend on, even when we don’t understand it!  So think first of His kingdom, that God is in charge, that He has made you incredible promises, that those can’t be affected by who is the president of our country, the governor of our state.

Focus on God, on His love, on HIs mercy.  This is why Pope Benedict XVI once wrote the passage in blue, and where I underlined it, we have to realize this.  Heaven isn’t some far off place, where we will go and play golf, or play a harp when we die.  Heaven is revealed as that place we are, when in doubt and pain we find ourselves surrounded with hope and peace.  When we realize God is in charge, when His presence becomes so real, we cannot deny it.  (Which is why the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is so critical in the life of the church!)  It is our presently reality, and it has been one since Peter walked into an empty tomb, and Jesus walked through locked doors. That is what Paul talks of as well – as he urges the Colossian believers to focus their lives on the reality of heaven.

He is risen!  ALLELUIA!

And therefore, we can pray and vote, and know God is with us, so everything will work out for good, because He loves us.

AMEN!

(1)  Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

 

 

 

Preparing for After the Election… “O Lord What Will We Do NOW?!?”


Devotional Thought of the Day:
15  When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha. 16  “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” 17  Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes and let him see!” The LORD opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.
2 Kings 6:15-17 (NLT)

482    What does it matter if the whole world with all its power is against you? Forward! Repeat the words of the psalm: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? … Si consistant adversum me castra, non timebit cor meum—“If armies in camp should stand together against me, my heart shall not fear.”

If I were to believe everything said about each of the candidates, I would think that no matter who is the next President of the United States, we would be better off with a global flood, or perhaps that the full tribulation had come into effect.

The words of Elisha’s servant would certainly be mine, as fear and anxiety overtook me. “Lord, what are we going to do now?”  How will we survive this?  Every worst case scenario will flash before our eyes, as we expect America to sink in a moral crisis unheard of since.. well at least the 1960’s – and maybe all the way back to the 1890’s! (Or ancient Rome)

Some fear one winning, others fear the opponent dominating.  Some and anxious because they don’t want either to win! No matter who, there will be people displeased and distraught, worried about the world changing, even fearing it ending.

What we need is the same thing the servant needed, to have our eyes opened to the reality that this world is still part of God’s kingdom.  That the richness of His promise of eternity and His presence with us in this life is more than our fears.

Christ is with us.

Think about that….

No, I mean really think about it, let your heart and mind dwell in the presence of Christ here, in your presence right now.  Remember the moment you communed that you shared His Body and Blood and experienced for a moment, the wonder and awe that comes when He is revealed.

This experience, this knowledge, this awareness that God is for us, is what has sustained people of God for millennia.  That has enabled them to know peace in dictatorships and revolutions, in times of global war, and famine.  They have known that peace even as their brothers and sisters are martyred, even as they are martyred.

It is the one constant hope we have, in a broken, hurting, rebellious world.  Knowing this, we are confident not only that the world’s sin cannot separate us from God, but we are reminded that our own cannot either.  Including the anxiety and doubt, we have that God is still in charge, working everything our for good for those who love Him.

And it is more than enough to sustain us at this time.

Lord, have mercy on us and help us to see you, incarnate, present, benevolent and in control.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1179-1181). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Emperor’s New Clothes, and our Need for a(nother) sacrificial victim.

Devotional Thought for the Day:

10  But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness. Leviticus 16:10 (NKJV)

20  But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death. 21  But the governor said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22  Pilate *said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all *said, “Crucify Him!” 23  And he said, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they kept shouting all the more, saying, “Crucify Him!” Matthew 27:19-23 (NASB)

It may be that I am just becoming more aware of it in my own life, but I am becoming more and more concerned about the need for a Messiah figure.

Not the messiah who would save us, but the man or woman’s who sacrifice would convince us that all is okay in our world.  The sacrificial victim, the one in the old testament which is described as the scapegoat – the one who is sent away, and then everything is made righteous.

Colin Kaepernick is the most recent one people would crucify.  During the Olympics, there were several that gained infamy, and we would crucify them willingly. There are those who would blame and want to make scapegoats our of the BLM movement, others who simply want to blame the police.  Some want to blame those who would find refuge in our country; others want to blame those who would build fences and protect the dream – by denying it to others.  I could go on, as we look at how people treat presidents and presidential candidates, other politicians, and even going back to Henry VIII’s famous line about lawyers. We’ll blame teachers, parents, society, something  – we have a desire to make something our sacrifice.  

We want a scapegoat, we want someone to take away our problems, we want someone to blame as if that will cause everything to be alright, to be okay.  Leaders and the media will do as the priests and elders did, calling on us to crucify those they point to, and so desperate for hope, we will echo their chants, share the news articles, share the meme’s without checking the truth, or considering the results. 

 What is often happening is what we see in the old fable called “the Emperor’s New Clothes.”  We do not realize we have made something in our life a sacred cow, an idol, something to be protected and defended because we base our hope on it.  We count on it for comfort; we expect that if our hope is true, we will know peace.  And these goals let us down, and we come face to face with the problems, and we end up defensive and in despair.

And we want to find something else, someone else to blame.

if someone attacked our idols, if they reveal our idolatry,m our nakedness and shame, they become the perfect target. We will gladly become hypocrites, liars, and even those who cry “crucify him” to return to our former blindness, our former state of being illusioned. Our former sense of self-righteousness.   The man who points out our brokenness, our sin, and what is shameful becomes the target.  Real problems for sure, but the person we nail for it, they aren’t to blame.  But their suffering blinds us to our own. Because their being crucified, their reputations suffering alleviates our need to deal with our real problems.

We want to turn him into another messiah, and hopefully, this time, the scapegoat won’t return, the crucified sacrificial victim won’t rise again.

We’re pretty sure he can’t – after all, he’s not the Christ.

We need to stop hiding behind our illusions, they don’t change the reality.  We need to deal with the brokenness in our lives, in our families, our society, and yes in our churches. We need to stop trying to find a scapegoat, another person to crucify and instead celebrate the one that we needed to be crucified was.  For the victim we needed to find, we don’t have to draft a new one.  There was One, Jesus the one who was chosen and annointed by God to die for us.

He also rose from the dead.

Because of that crucifixion and resurrection we will heal from our brokenness, we are giving His righteousness to wear, His spirit to dwell within us. We are made whole, and we know His peace, a peace that we we can’t understand, peace in the middle of brokennes.

He died, and no one else has to be crucified.

He rose and all of us who know Him, who trust in Him will rise.

Even those we wanted to crucify…

This politician is so evil and corrupt, that they ticked God off..

Devotional Thought of the Day:

He did much evil in the LORD’s sight and provoked him to anger. 7 An idol he had made he placed in the house of God, of which God had said to David and to his son Solomon: In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I shall set my name forever. 8 I will no longer make Israel step out of the land I assigned to your ancestors, provided that they are careful to observe all I commanded them, the entire law, the statutes, and the ordinances given by Moses.
9 Manasseh misled Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem into doing even greater evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed at the coming of the Israelites. 10 The LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention.
Manasseh’s Conversion. 11 bTherefore the LORD brought against them the army commanders of the Assyrian king; they captured Manasseh with hooks, shackled him with chains, and transported him to Babylon.* 12 In his distress, he began to appease the LORD, his God. He humbled himself abjectly before the God of his ancestors, 13 and prayed to him.* The LORD let himself be won over: he heard his prayer and restored him to his kingdom in Jerusalem. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD is indeed God.    2 Chronicles 33:6-13  NABRE

We are unjust before God; we have turned away from him in pursuit of our own glorification and so we have become subject to death. But God waives the merited punishment and puts something new in its place: healing; our conversion to a renewed Yes to the truth about ourselves. So that this transformation may take place, he goes before us and takes upon himself the pain of our transformation. The Cross of Christ is the real elucidation of these words: not “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”, but “transform evil by the power of love.…” In the Cross of Christ, and only there, these words open themselves to us and become revelation. In the company of the Cross, they become a new possibility even for our own lives.

21 Here we are talking about personal faith, which accepts the promise as a present reality and believes that the forgiveness of sins is actually being offered, not about a faith which believes in a general way that God exists.
22 Such use of the sacrament comforts devout and troubled minds.

For the last week, I have seen sincere brothers and sisters in Christ aid in the demonizing of politicians that they don’t know, never mind knowing their hearts, never mind knowing the plans God has in store for us all.

Watching the anxiety grow, and the angst, I even see it beginning to fracture families and friendships, as one can’t understand how the other can support “them”. While I pray for those running, I pray even more for those who are following and placing their hopes in the plans and personalities of those running for office.

This was on my heart this morning, as I went into my devotional reading, and came across Manasseh. Not only did he encourage the worship of idols, and demonic “gods”, he even placed in God’s temple a giant Asherah pole – a pagan idol that was simply a huge phallic symbol.   He put the idol in the place where God put His name, which people would know that their prayers would be answered and that He would forgive their sins, and bring them to the transformation of repentance.

A slap in God’s face, and worse.  This man was evil upon evil. I think even the staunchest opponent of any politician in office today, or running for office, would find their nemesis preferable to Manasseh.  Some may argue differently, but the reality is there, God’s testimony is clear – the nation’s evil was greater than nations God condemned and destroyed.  God tried to speak to them, and they ignored Him.

This corrupt evil leader would not only repent; he would also lead his entire nation in repentance, in a time of purging all the idolatry from their nation.

He would lead a revival of repentance because God didn’t give up, even as God was completely ticked off, furious beyond recognition.  His people, led by a descendant of the David, the man after God’s own heart,  did more evil than those God had Israel clear out of the land.  God was patient with them, and called them to repentance, and transformed them from evil, into His children once again.

As Pope Benedict wrote when he was a cardinal, God sent Jesus before us to bear the price of that repentance, to bear the punishment that should have been ours.  He transformed evil by the power of love, not only giving us an example to follow but making it possible to love that completely.  It becomes the hope, the possibility for our lives.

Melancthon writes in the Lutheran confessions that this brings us comfort when our minds are torn between being devout, yet troubled by our sin.  For our trust in God, boosted by the sacraments, the acts where God pours out His mercy, love and grace, upon us.

It is those promises, and seeing those promises fulfilled in the life of Manasseh that bring peace in a time when the world and just the United States seems beyond hope  God can work in and through such people.  God can call them to repentance, and has.

God doesn’t give up, He strives for our very souls and the souls of those in leadership. Trust in Him, find in your baptism, and in communion the real forgiveness of sins, and pray that God would lead our leaders to the same.

So pray for them, pray for us, that all would know the mercy and peace of God.

Peace that is promised, peace that is delivered.

AMEN!

 

(1)  Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 78–79). San Francisco: Ignatius Press

(2)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 214). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press..

 

 

 

Can we work together?

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

I came across the passage after looking at Facebook yesterday, and being in despair. Not because of the election, but because of the responses to it, from both sides of the aisle, and from pastor’s whose hopes were pinned to one candidate or the other.  In despair, because the love and mercy that has been modeled to us by Jesus dying on the cross, was evident no where… I was despondent, and I wondered – has there ever been a time like this, were the people of God were so despondent about their leadership, and about each other?

Preparing for worship services for the next few weeks led me to the readings for thanksgiving Day.  One actually is a parallel to our Bible study in Ezekiel, and is found in Daniel 2.  There – having been taken from their home, having seen what they thought has been gross injustice in the way the government was treating them (Ezekiel 17 shows that isn’t necessarily so) an impossible task is laid on a young leader named Daniel.  He is asked to provide that which others say will require a miracle. TO not only interpret a dream that caused him great anxiety, but to do so without the dream being shared.  The penalty for failure was decapitation after limp being separated from limb.  (and some of us are discouraged by economics!)

Daniel asks for a little time – goes hope – calls the prayer chain (some other young men who will soon know God is their refuge) and they pray, and the prayer is answered.  Here is Daniel’s response to the answer:

“Blessed be the name of God, forever and ever. He knows all, does all: 21 He changes the seasons and guides history, He raises up kings and also brings them down, he provides both intelligence and discernment, 22 He opens up the depths, tells secrets, sees in the dark—light spills out of him! 23 God of all my ancestors, all thanks! all praise! You made me wise and strong. And now you’ve shown us what we asked for. You’ve solved the king’s mystery.” Daniel 2:20-23 (MSG) 

If God is indeed in charge of our lives, if God is truly here, active, our refuge and strength and the King of Kinds, Lord of Lords, and Prince of Peace, then, and only then, is a reaction like this possible.  Only in faith can we find the strength and patience to turn to God in prayer, when Government seems oppressive and wrong.  Only in Christ can we find a way to work with them, loving them, treating them in a way in accord with Phil 4:7-8, that will result in their honoring God.

It can never be about faith in men (see Psalm 2 and 146) or even a lack of faith in man….

It has to be about the faith we have in God, in the expectation we have, because God has vowed to make us His and keep us in His peace.

You want to know how to survive – look to Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith in God….

and then you will know how to work alongside each other, and a leader we didn’t think was God’s will.

We might even find out – like Israel was told by Ezekiel, that it was…  (see Ezekiel 17)

God’s peace, my friends, is yours!

Time to get back to work….

Devotional thought of the day….

Finally, grow strong in the Lord, with the strength of his power. 11 Put on the full armour of God so as to be able to resist the devil’s tactics. 12 For it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against the principalities and the ruling forces who are masters of the darkness in this world, the spirits of evil in the heavens. 13 That is why you must take up all God’s armour, or you will not be able to put up any resistance on the evil day, or stand your ground even though you exert yourselves to the full. 14 So stand your ground, with truth a belt round your waist, and uprightness a breastplate, 15 wearing for shoes on your feet the eagerness to spread the gospel of peace 16 and always carrying the shield of faith so that you can use it to quench the burning arrows of the Evil One. 17 And then you must take salvation as your helmet and the sword of the Spirit, that is, the word of God. 18 In all your prayer and entreaty keep praying in the Spirit on every possible occasion. Never get tired of staying awake to pray for all God’s holy people, 19 and pray for me to be given an opportunity to open my mouth and fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel 20 of which I am an ambassador in chains; pray that in proclaiming it I may speak as fearlessly as I ought to.

Ephesians 6:10-20 (NJB)

4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed 19 and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save his people.”
Luke 4:18-19 (TEV) 

This morning as I looked at FB during breakfast, my heart broke.

Not over who one the election.  That event doesn’t change who I am, or what I do.  Simply put, the job of the church, and of its pastors, is to bring the same message that Jesus quoted from the Book of Isaiah.  That doesn’t change, the message is the same, no matter who is in office, no matter if it is proclaimed Sunday morning in a Cathedral, or Wednesday afternoon in Starbucks.  If doesn’t matter if the government is working with the people of God, or as it was when Paul wrote that passage in Ephesians 6, killing those who trusted in God, (as Paul himself once did.)

It is time for the church to re-focus, to speak the words of life to a world, not just a country, a world where brokenness abounds, where families need healing, where forgiveness must be offered… and received.  Where people are willing to love, and serve, and show mercy.

We aren’t each others enemies.  Those who don’t agree with us in regards to morality, are not those we are to do battle with, drawing lines in the sand.  For those in the church are not any less of sinners – the only difference is we know where to turn to for help – and they do not.  Our battle isn’t with presidents or governors – our battle is for souls that fear death, that despair under the oppression of Satan, and who are in bondage to sin. THe only way to see them freed – is by sharing the hope we have in Christ – it cannot be done in the ballot box, or in loud speeches, or in bemoaning (or being triumphant) on FB and Twitter.  Note that even as Paul talks about the armor of God, it is all about trusting in His promises, and that it is used not to condemn and do battle, but to share the gospel.

You want real change?

Here is the promise of it:
7:12 Then one night the LORD appeared to Solomon and said, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this Temple as the place for making sacrifices. 13 At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you. 14 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. 15 My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. 16 For I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be holy—a place where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart.
2 Chronicles 7:12-16 (NLT) 

We are His Temple… we are dear to His heart…

Cry out “Lord have mercy”  and know He has…

Respect the Office and the Person

This will be a controversial topic.  Oh well, it needs to be said.  I ask you to read this, pray about it, pray some more and think it through.  Do not just react – that is part of our problem these days…  Be still, know God is God… then look to His wisdom.

As the elections come closer, I have been noticing a lot of hatred spewing forth, the kind of stuff that will cause our nation to rot unless eradicated.

We aren’t the first nation to have leaders whose actions and policies are questionable.  Nor is it the first time the church has felt herself attacked by those leaders.  (that is a different subject, but I believe those who have reduced the pro-life debate to who pays for it through their insurance to have given up too much ground in the discussion.)  Compared to the much of the world today, the US government is still comparatively friendly to the church.  We haven’t had government sanctioned burning of our churches, pastors and evangelists are not tossed in jail, no beheadings etc.

And please understand – I am all for a straight out discussion on the issues, that people can make up their mind, not based in fear, but based in true positions.  I think we need to appeal to more than just fear, to more than just emotion.

Even more, I think those of us who claim we trust in Christ need to demonstrate that trust – by acknowledging and heeding the teachings of the commandments, and specifically the fourth commandment.  When Luther explains the “honor your father and mother”, he expands the group to whom we owe respect, by noting that they are simply extensions of paternal authority.   Simple terms – they assist the parents in keeping their children safe, healthy and in a relationship with God.

Interestingly – Luther – whose government wasn’t the best either- extends that authority to civil government.  Even if we don’t agree with them, we owe them the same honor we owe our parents.  Don’t really see that much of respect these days.   That doesn’t mean we have to tolerate their error – we need to work with them on it.  But we still need to show them honor, respect, and yes, even love.

Not this “respect the office, not the person” excuse I’ve heard a lot recently.  That simply gives license to our sinful nature to attack, to react in fear, to allow sin to reign.  It allows us to excuse sinful behavior, and strike out in fear.  And it goes against the words of scripture, that see something more at stake.  This is what Peter wrote:

2:13 For the Lord’s sake, respect all human authority—whether the king as head of state, 14 or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right. 15 It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. 16 For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. 17 Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king.
1 Peter 2:13-17 (NLT) 

Peter wrote that – when he was facing death for his witness…

Maybe we should open our eyes, and hear with our ears, and keep the way of life God has commissioned… then perhaps… we will realize the healing He is doing in this land.  For it is not a candidate that has the strength to do so, it is only God.

So work hard – make you voice heard, but do it in accord with God’s word, and pray and honor those in authority…

And look and see what God is doing!  He is having mercy on us!

Live Graciously, even in an Election Year!

Consider these passages – as you engage others, and post your positions on facebook…

5:43 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ 44 I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, 45 for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. 46 If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. 47 If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. 48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.
Matthew 5:43-48 (MSG) 

4:19 Let us love, then, because he first loved us. 20 Anyone who says ‘I love God’ and hates his brother, is a liar, since whoever does not love the brother whom he can see cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 Indeed this is the commandment we have received from him, that whoever loves God, must also love his brother.
1 John 4:19-21 (NJB) 

May that which we say, and post, reflect God’s glory to a world that more than enough evil and darkness.

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