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URC Daily Devotion Sunday Worship 28th August – Rev Andy Braunston 🙏

Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 28th August 2022

 
Today’s service is led Rev Andy Braunston, Minister for Digital Worship and creator of Daily Devotions. 

Today’s Service includes Holy Communion. 

 
Call to Worship
 
Come, all you vagabonds, come all you ‘don’t belongs’, winners and losers, come, people like me. Come to the feast, there is room at the table.

Come all you travellers tired from the journey, come wait a while, stay a while, welcomed you’ll be. Come to the feast, there is room at the table.

Come all you questioners looking for answers, and searching for reasons and sense in it all; come to the feast, there is room at the table.

Come all you fallen, and come all you broken, find strength for your body and food for your soul. Come to the feast, there is room at the table.

Come to the feast, there is room at the table. Come let us meet in this place with the King of all kindness who welcomes us in, with the wonder of love, and the power of grace. Come to the feast, there is room at the table.
 

Hymn Here In This Place
Marty Haugen (b1950) sung by Heather Jordan of St Michael and St George’s Anglican Churches, Canmore, Alberta, Canada, used with their kind permission.

Here in this place
new light is streaming,
now is the darkness
vanished away.
See in this space
our fears and our dreamings brought here to You
in the light of this day.
Gather us in,
the lost and forsaken;
gather us in, the blind and the lame. Call to us now
and we shall awaken
we shall arise
at the sound of our name.

We are the young,
our lives are a mystery.
We are the old
who yearn for your face.
We have been sung throughout all of history –
called to be light
to the whole human race.
Gather us in,
the rich and the haughty.
Gather us in,
the proud and the strong.
Give us a heart
so meek and so lowly.
Give us the courage
to enter the song.
 

Here we will take
the wine and the water.
Here we will take
the bread of new birth.
Here you shall call
your sons and your daughters;
call us anew to be salt for the earth.
Give us to drink
the wine of compassion.
Give us to eat
the bread that is You.
Nourish us well
and teach us to fashion
lives that are holy
and hearts that are true.
 

Not in the dark
of buildings confining;
not in some heaven
light years away –
but here in this place,
the new light is shining.
Now is the kingdom,
now is the day.
Gather us in
and hold us forever.
Gather us in
and make us your own.
Gather us in,
all peoples together.
Fire of love in our flesh
and our bones.
 

Prayers of Approach & Confession
 

Eternal One,
we give you thanks and praise for the invitation you give to each of us to join you at the feast. At your table we gather:

rich and poor, saint and sinner, old and young, healthy and frail, black and white, women and men,

made in your image, loved to the core of our beings, invited to feast with you and with each other,
as a sign of radical love and equality.
 

Yet we realise, O God,
we have swapped Your glory for that which does not last:
offered Your plenty, we turn our backs and wander into the wilderness; offered Your richness we prefer the poverty of dark drought;
offered Your abundant blessings we defile our land.
We value that which has no real worth
and so we see ourselves as worthless;
lacking Your wisdom we choose politicians, priests, and princes
like cracked cisterns
that spill precious resources,
and there is no health in us.
 

Yet You, Eternal One,
raise the lowly,
invite to Your table those who can’t repay You, 
reward the righteous,
and make all people welcome.
 

Forgive us when we turn away from You, and all You offer us; forgive us, and give us time to change. Amen.

Words of Healing
 

The good Lord offers us healing, wholeness and welcome;
all are welcome to recline at His table,
to join with the outcast and feast with Him.
So turn from Your pride and fear,
embrace the One who runs to welcome you home.
You are forgiven; have the courage to forgive yourself. Amen.
 

Prayer for Illumination
 

Hear O people, listen for God’s word

in reading and sermon, in song and silence,
in bread and wine,
in saint and sinner,

broken open for us, that we might live. Amen.
 

Readings 

Jeremiah 2:4-13

Hear the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. Thus says the LORD: What wrong did your ancestors find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves? They did not say, “Where is the LORD who brought us up from the land of Egypt, who led us in the wilderness, in a land of deserts and pits, in a land of drought and deep darkness, in a land that no one passes through, where no one lives?” I brought you into a plentiful land to eat its fruits and its good things. But when you entered you defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination. The priests did not say, “Where is the LORD?” Those who handle the law did not know me; the rulers transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal, and went after things that do not profit. Therefore once more I accuse you, says the LORD, and I accuse your children’s children. Cross to the coasts of Cyprus and look, send to Kedar and examine with care; see if there has ever been such a thing. Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for something that does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.
 

St Luke 14:1, 7-14

On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely. When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honour, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honour, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honoured in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Alleluia
Honduran Traditional Melody arranged by John Bell from the album Sing with the World.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia,
El Señor resucito. (repeat)

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia alleluia, alleluia,
Jesus Christ is with us now. (repeat)

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia,
Glory, love and praise to God. (repeat)
 

Sermon

Courts are always in the news. Judges make newsworthy decisions every day – whether that’s the crime page in the local paper or cases of constitutional importance that dominate the evening news and daily papers. We remember the Supreme Court determining that Mr Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament was unlawful – and which meant the Queen was asked to do something illegal. In Scotland we followed with great interest Mr Salmon’s trial a year or so ago and all had opinions about the Not Proven verdict, on the most serious matter. More recently we’ve seen the UK Courts fail to stop deportations to Rwanda but be overruled, at least temporarily, by the European Court of Human Rights whilst our domestic courts determine the lawfulness of the policy. We’ve seen the UK government try to leave the jurisdiction of another European Court – the European Court of Justice – despite agreeing, in the Northern Ireland protocol, that this court would have a role. We’ve seen war crimes trials in Ukraine and a mockery of a war crimes trial in Russian controlled Ukraine. Trials are newsworthy. They can be exciting, they deal with complex issues, the stakes are high – the liberty of the accused in criminal trials, or the fate of a government policy in many civil matters.

Today’s reading from Jeremiah, like many other passages in the Old Testament, sounds like God is in a court room as prosecutor with Israel in the dock. Israel is asked if it has remembered what the Lord had done for them; the turning away from God and towards idols is mentioned again and again. The ingratitude of the people is used as evidence against them. The people have forgotten what God has done for them, the gracious provision of food, shelter and security is forgotten or treated as ancient myth. The words come from around 600 years before Jesus at a time when Jeremiah was urging the king, Josiah, to more fully follow God’s Law. The people had turned away from God and towards idols and so had, in Jeremiah’s view, defiled the land which had been given them by God. The leaders of God’s people, ruler and priest, had forgotten God and God’s laws and so failed to ask God for guidance. A people who had been led by God through the arid wilderness of the desert to a land of plenty turned their back on the Lord who had given them fresh plentiful water and, instead, turned to the stale, brackish water of pagan gods – water kept in cracked cisterns.

Jeremiah liked his metaphors and saw the people’s rejection of God as being situated in a lack of memory. They had got comfortable, they had forgotten what God had done for them, the good things that God had given them and, instead, had reverted to worshipping idols and taking God for granted. In our own day we might say they’d become more secular, forgetting what God had done for them, forgetting the ways in which God had sustained them, given them water in the wilderness and guided them to a land of plenty – a land where all the people were to be sustained. Preferring the new, the people forgot the old and, in so doing, forgot God and God’s generous providing.

The feast which Jesus was invited to in our Gospel reading provided a nice place for Jesus to make some points about status and God’s generous provision. In first Century Palestine the way folk ate was different than now. Now, if we have people round for a meal or go to a restaurant we sit at a table, with a nice table cloth, maybe candles on the table which we crowd around. Then, for celebrative meals, people lay on couches, head and upper body nearer the table, feet at the end of the couch away from the table – that’s how the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet at another meal was able to easily access his feet and get to work before the others really noticed what was happening. People might share a couch – which is why in John’s Gospel we read of “the disciple whom Jesus loved” leaning against Jesus’ breast at a meal; they’d shared a couch. Themostimportant people lay either side of the host and the food was placed on a central table.

People wore their napkins – the stoles that many clergy wear are a left-over of this. If you eat laying down you will spill some food so you need a cloth to keep your fingers clean – remember people ate with their hands then not knives and forks. So if you were lying on a couch up near the top table being asked to shift down was very embarrassing, having to sit up, disturb those on the couch with you, put sandals back on, find a new seat, ask people to shift over, get settled again, and everyone not knowing where to look, and feeling shamed. Far better, says Jesus, to take a couch at the back and, if moved up, that’s a bonus.

Far more radical than this sensible advice about humility, however, were Jesus’ words around who to invite: “… do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Here we see a glimpse of the Kingdom of God – where not just all are welcome – we like to sing that all are welcome but don’t often really mean it. Instead, Jesus gives some tangible examples about who should be invited – the outsider, the weak, the ignored, and the despised are to be given their place at the table – a higher place than the relatives, the rich, the up and in. In the Kingdom all the normal social considerations are turned on their head; more Jesus tells us to act like this not to get a reward here as our invitations are returned but to seek to be seen as righteous in God’s eyes.

I wonder what our world would look like if we did this. It’s not the passive “all are welcome” that we put on our church noticeboards and newsheets. It’s not the “all are welcome” refrain that we sing – only, often, to ourselves. Jesus told the pharisee, and tells us, to go and invite folk in – and to be selective when we send our invitations. We’re to invite those whom the world ignores or despises. The people who make us feel uncomfortable. I’m sure the Pharisee who hosted this feast didn’t socially know the people Jesus told him to invite; after all we tend to mix with folk who are like us.

Do we know any outsiders, weak folk, ignored people and those who are despised? Who might these folk be in our midst now? Of course our churches are very good at working for the poor – we host and support Foodbanks. Of course, we feel compassion for those who are homeless, regularly pray for them and for policies to change but do we invite the homeless to our church or our homes? Of course we welcome the stranger – in principle – but we often get suspicious of new folk in our churches. I read of an Anglican Archdeacon who used to visit and preach in various churches in his patch. He’d go with his wife who’d sit quietly at the back. Not knowing who she was, after church she went to get a coffee and biscuit and was firmly told she couldn’t have a chocolate biscuit as they were for the regulars. Worse, this happened on a “back to church” Sunday where folk had been invited to come!

We might feel a bit sorry for the hapless Pharisee who had gone to some expense to provide a nice feast for Jesus and then got two sermons – one on seating arrangements and one on who he should have invited. The Pharisee wasn’t going to be inviting the poor, the disabled, the lame and the blind. He’d need to have got extra staff in to help those who couldn’t see the food or feed themselves. He’d find the poor were smelly and maybe rather hungry. He’d not have any social reward for feeding and showing hospitality to these folk; what was in it for him? We know, of course, he would have been wrong to have these attitudes but we know, too, that deep within us we have these same attitudes. We are fine in helping the poor, the weak, the homeless, and the stranger – but at a distance, where there’s a sort of superior/inferior relationship. Jesus asks us to do more – not just to help but to include those who are different. What might that mean for us?

  • It will mean not just saying we’re anti-racist but actively seeking out people of different ethnicities and making them welcome.
  • It will mean not just decrying the policies which lead to homelessness, not just supporting the work of those who work with the homeless, but making our churches welcoming places for the homeless.

  • It will mean not just wringing our hands at policies around refugees which break international law but actively helping refugees find safety and sanctuary in our churches and our society.

And more…there are no second class folk at a meal. We sit around a tableand equally share; meals are great examples of equality in that we don’t give more food to some rather than others, we don’t offer some wine and others just water. We share equally and taking into account the preferences and needs of different people; we offer vegetarian food, or gluten or diary free food when needed. So with the Church it’s not just about making folk welcome and keeping them in their place where they can’t change or challenge anything; if folk come and are made welcome they will change us; just as they themselves will be changed.

When I worked in Manchester the congregation I then served slowly started, almost by accident, to work with asylum seekers. In making them feel welcome we learnt of their plight; one lad told us as he had no recourse to public funds he fed himself with Red Cross food parcels – in the UK he lived on Red Cross food parcels. The anger that unleashed in that congregation led them to become very radical; help was given, people opened their homes, we started a food bank for asylum seekers, more folk came – confused, bedraggled, traumatised.

We started a social and support group for asylum seekers and the congregation became not only radical but multi-racial. We helped over 60 people gain asylum in the UK. We didn’t just do good, we didn’t just help at a distance, we allowed those we were helping to change us; we built a partnership. We allowed them to help us understand the world differently and that, I think, is Jesus’ point in the passage. We don’t invite those whom society overlooks just to be nice, just to get an eternal reward but so that we can see the world as it really is, so that we can see, understand, and change things. It’s Jeremiah’s point too – the people had forgotten what God had done for them and so had gotten lax; failing to remember God’s providence means we fail to remember to be providential ourselves. Failing to remember God’s mercy means we forget to be merciful. Failing to see the world as God sees it means we become blind to our realities.

So, as we remember God’s loving kindness to us, all the blessings we receive we know we have to respond. Unlike the people of Jeremiah’s day we have to remember and respond to God by showing the loving kindness we have received to others; unlike the Pharisee who asked the up and in to feast with Jesus we need to learn to invite the down and out – and to learn to see the world with their eyes so we both see it as it really is and change it. We learn to have an expansive welcome not to make ourselves feel good but to see the world through God’s own eyes.

Will you pray with me?

God of the past,
we thank you for Your loving kindness,
blessings and guidance given us over the ages.
God of the present,
help us to see our society as it really is,
to see it through the eyes of those you command us to feast with, that we may change our world to better reflect Your coming Kingdom. God of the future,
we long for your new age to come,
help us be instruments of your radical love,
that the world you dream of will come to be.
Amen.
 

Hymn For Your Generous Providing
The Rev’d Leith Fisher (1941 – 2009) sung by the Scottish Festival Singers, Ian McCrorie (Conductor), John Langdon (Organ) used with permission.
 

For your generous providing which sustain us all our days,
for your Spirit here residing, we proclaim our heartfelt praise.
Through the depths of joy and sorrow,
though the road be smooth or rough,
fearless, we can face tomorrow
for your grace will be enough.
 

Hush our world’s seductive noises, tempting us to stand alone;
save us from the siren voices calling us to trust our own.
For those snared by earthly treasure,
lured by false security,
Jesus, true and only measure,
spring the trap to set folk free.
 

Round your table, through your giving, show us how to live and pray 
till your kingdom’s way of living is the bread we share each day:
bread for us and for our neighbour,
bread for body, mind, and soul,
bread of heaven and human labour – 
broken bread
that makes us whole.

Offertory

God has blessed us in order that we may be a blessing to others; we’re not lavished with love and good things simply for our own good but that we might be channels of grace and blessing to others. We do this in many ways of course but we are called, to the best of our ability, to support the work of the Church. We give in the collection, we give by standing order direct to the church’s bank account, we give of our time and our talents as well as of our treasure and God, in great love and mercy, takes our gifts and uses them for good.
So let’s pray:

God of all good things
take our humble offerings,
of money, of time, of talent,
and multiply them
that through our resources which we return to you, our world may be changed.
Amen.

Affirmation of Faith

As followers of Jesus Christ, living in this world – which some seek to control, but which others view with despair – we declare with joy and trust: our world belongs to God!

From the beginning, through all the crises of our times, until His Kingdom fully comes, God keeps covenant forever. our world belongs to God!

We rejoice in the goodness of God, renounce the works of darkness, and dedicate ourselves to holy living, for our world belongs to God!

As committed disciples, called to faithful obedience, and set free for joyful praise, we offer our hearts and lives to do God’s work in his world, for our world belongs to God!

With tempered impatience, eager to see injustice ended, we expect the Day of the Lord. And we are confident that the light which shines in the present darkness will fill the earth when Christ appears for our World belongs to God!
 

Intercessions

At the end of each prayer I will say “Lord, in your mercy” please respond with the words “hear our prayer”.

Eternal One,
we thank you for your grace and favour to our forebears in distress, for the ways you’ve guided and governed your people,
blessed us with life and love and liberty,
called our church into being
and have sustained it in good times and in bad.
Help us to always remember your loving kindness,
your blessings,
that we may be living containers of your life giving water,
not broken cisterns which are good for nothing but the museum. 

Lord, in your mercy….hear our prayer.

God of the outcast
we pray for those who are finding life difficult,
those who have fled home
for fear or war, famine, persecution or poverty;
those waiting to come to the UK to re-join family and friends, where their language skills give them a fighting chance
of making a better life.

We remember those in immigration detention centres waiting to see if the Law will protect them from deportation. We pray for women in refuges,
waiting for justice and the chance to restart life in a safe way. We pray for the homeless on our streets,
that we may find better ways to care for the vulnerable.

Lord, in your mercy…hear our prayer.

God of the Church
we pray for our congregations,
that we may not only welcome all who come, but seek out those to invite,
that we become reflections of your Kingdom, places of exciting diversity,
places of liberating justice,
places where we see, in stranger and friend, the imprint of Your face.

Lord, in your mercy….hear our prayer.

God of the dispossessed and desperate,
we remember now in the silence of our hearts, those who need our prayers and love,
those we know and those who are known only to You…

Lord, in your mercy…hear our prayer.

We join all our prayers together as we pray, with Jesus.
Our Father…
 

Communion

This is the Lord’s table. The Lord Jesus invites us to share this joyful feast.

From east and west, from north and south, people will come and take their places at the banquet in the kingdom of God.

Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all who are weary and whose load is heavy;
I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble-hearted; and you will find rest for your souls.’

Hear the words of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, according to St Paul:

The tradition which I handed on to you came to me from the Lord himself: that on the night of his arrest the Lord Jesus took bread, and after giving thanks to God broke it and said: ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in memory of me.’

In the same way, he took the cup after supper, and said: ‘This cup is the new covenant sealed by my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this in memory of me.’ For every time you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord, until he comes.                  – 1 Corinthians 11: 23 – 26

As the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread,

I take these elements of bread and wine, to be set apart from all common uses to this holy use and mystery; and as he gave thanks and blessed, let us draw near to God and offer him our prayers and thanksgiving.

The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give our thanks and praise.

It is right to give you thanks and praise,
O Lord, our God, sustainer of the universe.
At your command all things came to be.
By your will, the vast expanse of space,
galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses,
and this fragile earth, our island home,
were all created and have their being.
You brought forth the human race,
and blessed us with memory, reason, and skill.
You made us the stewards of creation,
but we turned against you, and betrayed your trust. Yet your mercy is like a spring that never fails.
You yourself, in Jesus Christ,
come to deliver us:
you redeem us in your love and pity;
you create new heavens and a new earth
where the cry of distress is heard no more. Therefore we praise you,
joining with the heavenly chorus,
and with those in every generation
who have looked to you in hope,
to proclaim with them your glory
in their unending hymn:

Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

Gracious God,
we recall the death of your Son, Jesus Christ,
we proclaim his resurrection and ascension,
and we look with expectation
for his coming as Lord of all the nations.
We who have been redeemed by him,
and made a new people by water and the Spirit,
now bring you these gifts.
Send your Holy Spirit upon us,
and upon this bread and wine,
that we who eat and drink at this holy table
may share the life of Christ our Lord.
Pour out your Spirit upon the whole earth
and bring in your new creation.
Gather your Church together
from the ends of the earth into your kingdom,
where peace and justice are revealed,
that we, with all your people,
of every language, race, and nation,
may share the banquet you have promised.
Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ, 
all honour and glory are yours for ever.
Amen.
 

Hymn Shout for Joy the Lord Has Let Us Feast
John L Bell & Graham Maule © WGRG The Iona Community sung by the The Choir of St Magnus Cathedral, Edmund Holt (Conductor), Heather A Rendall (Conductor / Organ) used with permission.
 

Shout for joy! The Lord has let us feast; 
Heaven’s own fare has fed the last and least; 
Christ’s own peace is shared again on earth; 
God the Spirit fills us with new worth.

No more doubting, no more senseless dread: 
God’s good self has graced our wine and bread;
all the wonder heaven has kept in store,
now is ours to keep for evermore.

Celebrate with saints who feast on high,
witnesses that love can never die. 
’Hallelujah!’ – now their voices ring:
nothing less in gratitude we bring.

Praise the Maker, praise the Maker’s Son,
praise the Spirit – three yet ever one;
praise the God whose food and friends avow
heaven starts here! The kingdom beckons now!

Prayer

May our eyes which have seen God’s love; be open to look for the glorious hope.
May our ears which have heard God’s songs; be closed to clamour and dispute.

May our tongues which have uttered God’s praise;
be guarded to speak the truth in love.
May our hands have which have been raised in worship stretch out to bring forth fruit for God’s glory.

May our feet which have walked in God’s courts;
be directed into light.
May our souls and bodies which have been fed by the Word of life; serve the Eternal One with joy and gladness.
 

Hymn I The Lord of Sea and Sky

I, the Lord of sea And sky,
I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell In dark and sin, my hand will save.
I who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them?
whom shall I send?

Here I am Lord, is it I, Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.

 

I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people’s pain.
I have wept for love of them, they turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone,
give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak my word to them
whom shall I send?
 

Here I am Lord, is it I, Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.

Blessing

May the One who 
    has bought you this far neither forsaking or ignoring you,
    fills you with good things, 
    invites you to share your food with others, 
enable you 
    to remember all that has been done for you,
    to fill others with good things, and
    to feed others that you might be considered righteous.
And the blessing of Almighty God,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be with you, now and always,
Amen.

Call to Worship adapted from Stuart Townend’s song Vagabonds Affirmation of Faith from the Christian Reformed Church in America. Eucharistic Prayer adapted from the Church of Scotland’s Book of Common Order

Thanks to Sarah Wilmott, Rhona Newby, Ray Fraser, Graham Handscomb, Barbara Redmond, Addie Redmond, Morag Donaldson and Andy Braunston recording some of the spoken parts.  Hymn lyrics are public domain, the music in the podcast is delivered subject to the terms of the URC’s licence.

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