Sunday Worship 3 March 2024

Today’s service is led by the Revd Andy Braunston


Hello and welcome to worship. We hear again today the 10 Commandments – the basic constitutional law of the Jewish people and guidance for all of us as we ponder what God expects of the communities that form to worship and live rightly.  These teachings were and are counter to many of the cultural expectations we have – just as Jesus countered some of the cultural expectations of his age and today we’ll here John’s account of Jesus’ disruption at the Temple.  As Christians we can be tempted to compare and contrast the values of the Kingdom with those of the world but our Psalm today reminds us that God’s law is written into creation – and human culture is part of that creation.  So it’s never simple to work things out!  My name is Andy Braunston and I’m the United Reformed Church’s Minister for Digital Worship.  I live up in Orkney where it’s easy to see the majesty of God in the created world – from snow topped hills to the amazing power of the wind.  I’m a member of the Peedie Kirk URC, our most northerly congregation.  So, as we ponder the differing ways in which we hear God’s voice, let’s worship the Most High together.

Call to Worship

The heavens tell of your glory, O God;
the firmament proclaims your handiwork!

In the heavens you have set you have set a tent for the sun;
it emerges like a groom running its course with joy.

Nothing can hide from the sun’s heat;
no one can hide from your teachings O God.

Lift us, as we worship, into your presence O Most High,
that we might learn from you.

Hymn     Christ is Made the Sure Foundation
Latin 6th or 7th Century J. M. Neale (1861) Public Domain. Sung by the choir of St Michael and All Angels, Bassett and used with their kind permission.  

Christ is made the sure foundation,
Christ the head and cornerstone,
chosen of the Lord, and precious,
binding all the Church in one,
holy Zion’s help forever,
and her confidence alone.

All that dedicated city,
dearly loved of God on high,
in exultant jubilation
pours perpetual melody,
God the One in Three adoring
in glad hymns eternally.

To this temple, where we call You,
come, O Lord of Hosts, today;
with accustomed lovingkindness,
hear Your servants as they pray;
and Your fullest benediction
shed within its walls alway.

Here vouchsafe to all Your servants
what they ask of You to gain,
what they gain from You, forever
with the blessed to retain,
and hereafter in Your glory
evermore with You to reign.

Laud and honour to the Father,
laud and honour to the Son,
laud and honour to the Spirit,
ever Three, and ever One,
consubstantial, co-eternal,
while unending ages run.
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Grace

You are our foundation, O Most High,
in your guidance we find wisdom for life,
food for the journey,
and eyes to truly see our world.

You are our foundation, O Jesus,
in your teaching we find tools to critique our culture,
new ways of living,
and the ability to turn over the tables of corruption.

You are our foundation, Most Holy Spirit,
in the fire of your love we find inspiration,
the energy to live against the grain,
and the power of love which defeats all that is evil.

Yet we often prefer, O Trinity,
our own foundations to yours,
our own wisdom – instead of your eternal voice,
our own ways of living – despite them leading to oblivion.

Give us time, O God, to turn around,
that as you run to welcome us,
we may accept your forgiveness,
and change our lives.  Amen.

The Eternal One has poured grace upon us
since before the ages began;
rise up, believe, know that in God’s love 
you are made whole.
Have the courage to forgive yourself
and the grace to forgive others.  Amen.

Prayer for Illumination

As we hear your Word to us, O God,
let the words of our mouths speak of your love.
As we hear your Word to us, O God,
may the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you.
As we hear your Word to us, O God,
let us trust in you, our rock and redeemer. Amen.

Reading     Exodus 20:1-17

Then God spoke all these words: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work–you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it. Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour. You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

Hymn     May the Words of My Mouth (Psalm 19: 7-14) 
David Lee © 1996 © 1993 Gospel Publishing House, assigned to Lorenz Publishing Company (Admin. by Music Services) Performed at the DaySpring Baptist Church, Waco, Texas by Contemplative Desperados, Amy, Lauren, Jana, Brandt, Glenn OneLicence # A-734713  
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. 
The instruction of the Lord is true and makes the simple wise.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.

The rule of the Lord is gracious, rejoicing the heart; 
the commandment of the Lord is pure enlightening the eyes. 
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.

The fear of the Lord is holy enduring always. 
All the judgments of the Lord shall stand and righteous every one. 
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.

Your laws are more sweet than honey and prized more than gold; 
And from them your servant shall be taught: in them is great reward. 
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.

From sins of my own commission release me, set me free; 
And for all those sins I know not of forgive me, make me clean. 
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.

Reading     St John 2:13-22

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.


Our readings today invite us to compare and contrast – and that’s always a dangerous thing.  We listen to the 10 Commandments and, if we’ve not switched off, we might ponder all that Law that our Jewish friends have to obey whilst we believe ourselves to live lives of grace and freedom (forgetting that Jewish people don’t feel any more oppressed by the Law than we do by the 307 laws in the Highway Code!)  We sing the Psalm with the commandments ringing in our ears and, with the Psalmist, compare those who keep God’s laws (and we hope we’re in that group) with those who don’t.  We may listen to the Commandments and ponder how counter cultural they are; and think of Jesus in the Temple acting in ways which surprise us even though we know the story well.  We’re invited to compare the ways of our culture with the ways of God and, of course, to find our culture wanting.  Of course, we might find such an analysis wanting too.


Christians may switch off when they hear this list of what we call commandments; generations of having had them drummed into us – with many churches having them written on their walls – mixed with a feeling that this is all “law” and we’re about “grace” collude to stop us listening. The word we often translate as “Law” might also be rendered “teaching” or “direction.”  These teachings show how the people are to “do God” – in other words how to practice their faith in this new community of former slaves.  These teachings are vital; those who ignore them wander off into moral oblivion where God’s faithfulness will be of little use to them.  They are the broad precepts which make communal living flourish.   

The teachings are very counter cultural – a good Lenten theme – as they subvert many of the ideologies of our age.  The advertising industry, for example,  is based on making us covert those things which we haven’t got but which our neighbours have!  A better car, or domestic appliance, a newer phone or computer, a shinier tablet, a better TV package are all things that many of us covert.  If we didn’t covert these things our economy would take a turn for the worse – though our bank balances might not!  Our culture praises hard work; we’re even told we can better ourselves if we work hard enough but those who tell us this generally are the rich who didn’t work that hard for their wealth!  Taking time off regularly to rest is counter cultural and undermines this “work hard and do well” myth we are told to believe in.   Our culture is confused about affairs of the heart; it is both excited by and despises infidelity leaving us all rather confused.  

The Exodus passage gives some teachings within which a community might flourish.  Of course, some of them are difficult to work out; if we’re not pacifists, or if we believe in the right of women to control their own bodies, then the commandment not to kill is complex.  Honouring parents can be hard if they’ve not honoured the idea of providing a safe home. Amid the complexity, however, we can find broad guidance on how to flourish in life in ways which our culture might find startling.  

Psalm 19

These ideas are echoed in Psalm 19 which we’ve sung.   The theme of Commandment as direction in life is celebrated in the Psalm: God’s law is perfect; its precepts are right causing joy and enlightenment.  These are a way of life for a community and to be desired more than gold, they are sweeter than honey.  The early verses of the Psalm remind us of God’s self-revelation in nature itself; a revelation confirmed and enhanced in the Word.  Protestants can be a little uneasy with the idea that God’s own revelation can be seen in God’s handiwork – creation.  The idea that anyone can see and experience God even though they have no idea of what’s in the Bible is one that can unsettle us.  If people can know and discern God through nature and each other maybe that extends to human cultures and maybe nature, each other and culture might have something to tell us about God and God’s saving work – things that make us cautious.  We’re used to worrying about the greater secularisation these days but maybe there’s something in that of God; the freedoms that we enjoy because of the secular society we live in are not ones many of us would easily wish to give up.  The law of the Lord is perfect, but it’s understood and seen in many varied ways; ways which often surprise us.  

St John

This idea of being surprised is continued in our reading from St John’s Gospel today.  The first event in Jesus’ life that John describes is the miracle at Cana; a miracle at a private event.  The next event is the prophetic, dramatic, counter cultural, cleansing of the Temple.  The Synoptic Gospels place this in Jesus’ last week whereas John uses this to frame Jesus’ entire ministry which upends not just the tables but the assumptions and attitudes of the establishment.  When (irritating) people ask me “What would Jesus do?” I often reply that overturning traders’ tables, causing mayhem, and driving dishonest folk out is always an option!  

Whilst Jesus’ actions are shocking they are part of a longer tradition of prophets criticising the Temple and how people were manipulated there.  John doesn’t explain what irked Jesus; the Synoptics hint at profiteering as normal currency – bearing the Emperor’s image – was exchanged for Temple coins which had no image on it.  This meant that the animals purchased for sacrifice were sold at inflated rates.  In John, however, Jesus seems to object to the market being at the Temple at all.  Some think Jesus had the prophet Zechariah in mind who, in 14:21 and 14:5, offered the view that when the Lord came there would no longer be traders in the Temple.  In this view we see Jesus offering a change in the direction of worship – the later verses about worshipping in spirit and truth might allude to this.  Interestingly the authorities (John uses “the Jews” as shorthand here) don’t get too angry and, instead, ask for a sign.  Maybe they were teasing Jesus, asking him to put his miracles where his mouth was.  The sign offered was too mysterious for them to comprehend.  The disciples remember and believe, the authorities scorn and deny.  Maybe the wider culture here wasn’t so reliable as an indicator of God’s purposes as Jesus, the incarnate Word was.

Weaving the Threads

So what do we do with a list of guidance for life, a hymn of praise of God’s law, and an angry Jesus disrupting the religious status quo?

The Commandments are a mix of the deeply counter cultural and the deeply held beliefs.  Our society is based on a bit of greed oiling the machinery of capitalism yet we would all agree that it’s wrong to kill, lie, steal and break marital vows; though we might, as people have for thousands of years, want to delve down into whether these are absolutes for all circumstances.  Where the teachings are counter cultural we wonder how we might also subvert our culture where it gets things wrong.  How good are we, for example, at pushing back against the advertisements selling us what we don’t need, or the myriad ways in which we devalue life by keeping people poor and divided based on irrelevant distinctions around ethnicity?  We might look to Jesus’ actions who clearly upset the religious types of his day by behaving in counter cultural ways at the market.  If we wandered into a market, or a cathedral selling things and overturned the tables, made a whip, and threatened people with it we’d be swiftly arrested and prosecuted.  Yet the authorities seemed more bemused than angry at with Jesus;  his words about worship taking on new forms undermined the power they had and may have been the root cause of their later plotting to rid themselves of him.  Sometimes cultures can accommodate the new and unexpected.

I’m always torn between wanting to be a bit counter cultural and seeing how God is at work in our culture.  Of course, this doesn’t make for sermons with neat tidy answers!    There is much, of course, that is good, healthy, and wonderful in our culture.  Greater secularisation has meant more freedom for many people after all.  Few of us would want to go back to the culture of the 1950s where many of the freedoms we now enjoy were impossible; where it was illegal to love someone of the same sex, where divorce was difficult – especially for women trapped in loveless marriages, where rape within marriage was legal, where abortion was only possible for the rich or those who risked their lives.  The changes in culture over the last 70 years have enriched us all even though the Church has struggled to navigate it.  We might even ponder if God has been at work in those wider cultural changes acting where the Church would not.  

However, there’s also a Biblical perspective about what seems wise to our eyes is not necessarily wise in God’s eyes.  The Commandments really do bite into our culture: we may not be troubled with the teachings about monotheism but we often put other things before God; our culture is very wedded to the family, for instance, which is rather different to Jesus’ views on family.  We struggle with the “do not kill/murder” teaching as most of us are not pacifists.  Advertising makes us want to covert things we’ve not got – and churches use advertising to attract people into church.  

We are always called to compare and contrast God’s wisdom with that of our culture but it’s harder than, perhaps, the Biblical writers understood.  There again we also try and find a synthesis between God’s wisdom revealed in the Bible and in our culture.  After all we believe that God’s revelation is not limited solely to Scripture.  As we read, listen, consider, and evaluate we realise that our task is to see God’s wisdom in both Word and world.  Let’s pray.

O God of world, wonder, and word, be with us as we listen,
that we may find your wisdom,
in ancient word, natural world and contemporary culture,
that we may not perish but have abundant life.  Amen.

Hymn     He Who Comes To Us As One Unknown 
Timothy Dudley-Smith © 1973 Hope Publishing Company sung by the choir of Myers Park Baptist Church, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. Reprinted and Podcast in accordance with the terms of OneLicence # A-734713  

He comes to us as one unknown, a breath unseen, unheard;
as though within a heart of stone, or shrivelled seed in darkness sown,
a pulse of being stirred,
a pulse of being stirred.

He comes when souls in silence lie and thoughts of day depart;
half-seen upon the inward eye, a falling star across the sky
of night within the heart,
of night within the heart.

He comes to us in sound of seas, the ocean’s fume and foam;
yet small and still upon the breeze, a wind that stirs the tops of trees,
a voice to call us home,
a voice to call us home.

He comes in love as once he came by flesh and blood and birth;
to bear within our mortal frame a life, a death, a saving Name,
for every child of earth,
for every child of earth.
He comes in truth when faith is grown; believed, obeyed, adored:
the Christ in all the Scriptures shown, as yet unseen, but not unknown,
our Saviour and our Lord,
our Saviour and our Lord.

Affirmation of Faith

We believe that God’s wisdom is written into our world,
in majestic mountain, flowing river, abundant life
and in the cultures we create,
flawed and partial, and present and lifegiving;
at once hidden and revealed.

We believe that God’s wisdom is written in the Bible,
in ancient poetry, timeless law, piercing prophecy,
pastoral letters and glorious Gospel,
flawed and partial, and present and lifegiving;
at once hidden and revealed.  

We believe that God calls us to discern
where the knowledge of the age is undermined by eternal truth,
where culture offers a clearer view than Church,
and where wisdom is revealed: 
flawed and partial, and present and lifegiving;
at once hidden and revealed.  


We come to you in prayer, O God, glimpsing your love,
believing you are present with us.  
We listen to the news and are tempted to despair; 
wars and rumours of war fill our minds,
displaced people struggle to survive and cry to you for justice;
we are left not knowing how to respond other than to cry to you;
change our hearts O God, 
that we may pursue ways of peace,
and hear again your commandment “you shall not kill”.

Lord, in your mercy…hear our prayer.

We come to you in prayer, O God, glimpsing your love,
believing you are present with us.  
We read of unspeakable crimes, of victims not being heard, 
miscarriages of justice, and the rich and powerful evading the law,
we are left not knowing how to respond other than to cry to you;
change our hearts O God, 
that we may learn to speak truth to the powerful, insist on justice
and hear again your commandment “you shall not bear false witness”.

Lord, in your mercy…hear our prayer.

We come to you in prayer, O God, glimpsing your love,
believing you are present with us.  
We live in a culture addicted to work, 
we’re told to believe that hard work brings riches 
yet those who work the hardest get poorer,
whilst those with the resources get ever richer;
change our hearts O God,
that we may learn to rest, 
reject the pernicious assumptions of our age,
and hear again your commandment “rest on the sabbath”.

Lord, in your mercy…hear our prayer.

We come to you in prayer, O God, glimpsing your love,
believing you are present with us.  
Alongside the worries of our age, O God, we have our own concerns.  
In the silence of our hearts we lift to you those we know, 
love and worry about…


and we bring to you our own needs…


Change our hearts O God, 
That we might learn to trust in you alone,
And hear again your commandment to “have no other gods”.

Lord, in your mercy…hear our prayer.

We come to you in prayer, O God, glimpsing your love,
believing you are present with us and so we join all our prayers
with Jesus as we pray as he taught saying… 

Our Father… 


Our culture tells us to acquire and spend, paradoxically also telling us to save for the rainy day and old age.  Alongside that our faith tells us to give and not to count the cost.  We’re left in the middle of those ideas working how best to support causes close to our hearts, to understand our responsibilities as Christians to give so that lives will be changed and so that we are, ourselves, freed from the poison of consumerism.  We live with the competing demands of faith and culture, wealth, and wisdom.  And, as we muddle through we determine to give some of what we’ve been given to help others.  We may give through the plate, direct to the bank, in little envelopes.  We may give what we can, we may plan to give; however, we give we give thanks now for all that God has done for us and for all that can be achieved through our giving.

Eternal God,
You bless us with all that we have and call us to share as we can
so that your purposes can be fulfilled
in our world, in the Church, and in our own lives.
Bless these gifts, that we may use them wisely,
Always seeking to discern your will,
amongst the myriad voices we hear,
knowing you are always present and lifegiving,
at once hidden and revealed.  Amen.

Hymn     Jesus Invites His Saints
Isaac Watts Public Domain Sung by Lythan and Phil Nevard and used with their kind permission.

 Jesus invites his saints to meet around his board;
here pardoned rebels sit, and hold communion with their Lord.
For food he gives his flesh, calls us to drink his blood;
amazing favour, matchless grace of our descending God!

This holy bread and wine maintains our fainting breath,
by union with our living Lord, and interest in his death.
Our heavenly father calls Christ and his members one:
we the young children of his love, and he the first-born Son.
We are but several parts of the same broken bread;
our body hath its several limbs, but Jesus is the head.
Let all our powers be joined his glorious name to raise;
pleasure and love fill every mind and every voice be praise.

Holy Communion

We hear again the institution of the Lord’s Supper as told by the apostle Paul: For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread,  and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’  In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

God is here!                                               God’s Spirit is with us!
Lift up your hearts                                      we lift them up to God!
Let us give God our thanks and praise!     This is indeed our duty and joy!

Eternal Majesty,
before the ages began you formed the heavens and the earth,
the moon and the stars proclaim your glory,
and all that was created sings your praise.
You make humanity in your own image,
intending us to glorify and enjoy you forever.

Again and again, we turn away from your love,
despite the guidance of your Law and the warnings of your prophets.
In the fullness of time, 
you emptied yourself of all but love and dwelt with us. 

O Jesus, our Saviour,
you proclaimed good news to the poor, freedom for prisoners, 
sight for the blind and liberation for the oppressed,
but we preferred to turn away from freedom 
choosing the bondage of sin, and nailed you to the Cross.
Yet you defeated the powers of death and evil
and revealed a new life for all who follow you. 

Before you were given over to the powers of your age,
you shared in the simplicity of a meal with your friends,
and, during that meal, you took bread, said the ancient blessing,
broke the bread and gave it to your friends, saying

Take this all of you and eat it, for this is my body
which is broken for you.  Do this in memory of me.

When Supper was over, you took the cup of wine,
again prayed the ancient prayer of blessing,
gave the cup to your friends and said:

Take this all of you and drink from it,
this is the cup of my blood,
the blood of the new and everlasting covenant
so that sins may be forgiven.
Do this in memory of me.

Let us proclaim the mystery of our faith:

Christ has died.  Christ is risen.  Christ will come again.

Come, O Holy Spirit,
on these gifts of bread and wine,
that they may be, for us, the body and blood of Christ.
Lift us into your presence that our faith may be renewed,
our commitment to follow strengthened,
and our understanding of Church deepened.

Bless us all as we seek to discern your mind,
hearing you in creation, in the Word and in each other,
that as we discern the Church may be strengthened in its mission 
of worship and witness, evangelism and service,
so that the bruised and broken find healing,
the proud and mighty find humility,
and the poor and lowly find their dignity.

Through Jesus, with Jesus, in Jesus,
in the loving power of the Holy Spirit,
all honour and glory are Yours, O Most High,
forever and ever,   Amen!

The Invitation

You that do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in His holy ways; draw near with reverence,  faith, and thanksgiving, and take the Supper of the Lord to your comfort.

Come to this sacred Table, not because you must, but because you may: come to testify not that you are righteous, but that you sincerely love our Lord Jesus Christ, and desire to be His true disciples: come, not because you are strong, but because you are weak; not because you have any claim on Heaven’s rewards, but because in your frailty and sin you stand in constant need of Heaven’s mercy and help: come, not to express an opinion, but to seek a Presence and pray for a Spirit.

Music for Communion     I Watch the Sunrise 
John Glynn © 1976, Kevin Mayhew OneLicence # A-734713  

Post Communion Prayer

And now that you have received the Supper of the Lord, lift up your minds and hearts above all selfish fears and cares; let this bread and this wine be to you the witnesses and signs of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit. Consecrate your lives to Christian obedience and service, and pray for strength to do and to bear the will of God.  Amen

Hymn     Moved by the Gospel, Let Us Move  
Ruth Duck © 1992 GIA Publications sung by Sasha Massey at the Cathedral of St John the Evangelist Printed and Podcast in accordance with the terms of OneLicence # A-734713  

Moved by the Gospel, let us move with every gift and art.
The image of created love indwells each human heart. 
The Maker calls creation good, so let us now express 
with sound and colour, stone and wood, the shape of holiness. 

Let weavers form from broken strands a tapestry of prayer. 
Let artists paint with skilful hands their joy, lament and care. 
Then mime the story; Christ has come. With reverence dance the word. 
With flute and organ, gong and drum, God’s praise be ever heard. 
O Spirit, breathe among us here; inspire the work we do.
May hands and voices, eye and ear attest to life made new.
In worship and in daily strife create among us still.
Great Artist, form our common life  according to your will


May the One whose wisdom danced at the first light of day,
the One who overturned religion,
the One who is found in unexpected places with unexpected people
give you the grace 
to dance with the wise,
overturn powers that subvert the kingdom,
and find love in unlikely places,
and the blessing of Almighty God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Be with you all, now and always, Amen.
Come to the God who loves you.

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