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Matthew 5:38-34 The New Commandment

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You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. [NRSV]

Love your enemies

The prescription for healing our personal relationship, to our national and global relationships, requires love.

That makes this teaching one of the hardest.

The Big Ten Commandments are a list of “do and don’t,” Jesus raises the bar beyond following rules of “do or don’t.” Jesus is after our “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” [Luke 10:27]

To love our enemies requires more resource that we have.

God’s Love can do what nothing else can do.

In order for us to love with God’s love, we must rely on God’s love to shape our love.

  • STEP 1: Love God and know God Love you
  • STEP 2: Love God and know God loves your enemy
  • STEP 3: Model God’s love by loving first, without merit, rather because we are modeling God’s work in us.

Easy Love, does not require God’s help.

Find someone who likes you,

  • Find those who think and believe as you do like you,
  • Find those who will not challenge your actions or opinions, and
  • You can easily be successful in love that is self-affirming.
  • This might feel or seem to be loving others,
    • but love is actually not even noticed
    • and may not even be real.

What is the difference in Easy Love and Challenging Love

One we can do without God’s help and lasts as long as everyone is of like mind.

But when someone challenges the core, we desire “them” to return to the comfort and conformity of “us”

While we yet sinners.

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [Romans 5:8]

  • Jesus didn’t wait for us to go first,
  • Jesus didn’t judge us first to see if we are worthy of forgiveness
  • Jesus didn’t make us prove any reason to receive love, grace and new life.
  • Jesus loves us. Period.

In our Steps toward loving our enemies:

  • STEP 1: Love God and know God Love you
  • STEP 2: Love God and know God loves your enemy
  • STEP 3: Model God’s love by loving first, without merit, rather because we are modeling God’s work in us.

God’s love is preemptive

  • God goes first.
  • God makes the first move toward forgiveness
  • God makes the way possible where there is division.

The model for our loving those who are difficult to love

  • Begins by opening the conversation
  • Begins by making a way for grace
  • Begins by reminding ourselves and our enemies that God loves us even though we are at odds, broken or divided.

BUT WHY? Why does God loves us first?

It is the fundamental core of the nature of God

The core of our relationship with God and one another

God intervenes because we have broken the trust, we have divided our hearts, we have sided with like-minded.

If one side is righteous and the other totally corrupt, we would expect God to ‘smote’, flood and drive out the sinner from the garden. All these leave us separated and divided.

Jesus Reveals God’s Love as THE way to the heart of God.

Why don’t we move a far apart from one another and don’t cross paths, don’t interact, just avoid each other?

Why not write off the relationship and the people that are enemies?

  1. It’s not what God does
  2. It’s not what God has called us to do
  3. It keep us both from knowing Love/God

 

You can Never make someone love you

But you and I, as God models for us, a love, respect, hope, and longing for good with our enemies.

  • They may never repent
  • They may never respond in love
  • They may never relent

But their response is

  • not our responsibility,
  • not our challenge, and
  • not our calling.

The Way God’s Love Works

  1. It goes first, overlooking sin, broken, past, etc, with the hope of restoring the relationship
  2. It waits, not condoning sin, but hoping that by being loved first, the door/conversation/way is opened.
  3. It is genuinely longing for good, peace, joy, reunion, and the like to follow.
  4. It remains even if rejected.

Dirty Work, but Most Rewarding

  • Loving our Enemies is more difficult than following any rule or commandment
  • It is the primary work that we are all called to share.
  • Our ability to love and reciprocate love is linked to our salvation and eternity.

This is where it matters.

The challenge is to be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect.  Yikes!!

It is crucial that we define perfection as wholeness, completeness and not correctness, or a test score.

To be able to love those who have sinned, who are our enemies, is God’s work

And God gives us the same task to find wholeness by loving sinners.

To your Neighbor:

I’m a sinner, love me, forgive me and love me more

Back to your Neighbor: I’m a sinner too, I love you, I forgive you and need you to love me more,

God says: repeat daily.

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Hebrews 2:10-18 Childish vs Childlike

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It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Here am I and the children whom God has given me.” Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. [NRSV]

Act Like Children

Looking back twenty, forty and sixty years ago, Being able to be “Child-like” has radically changed.

  • Does it mean to seen as miniature adults
  • Are equally gifted with limitless possibilities
  • Do children have voice, vote or rights
  • Do children have to worry or work
  • Do children have privileges or are privileged

Children of developed and developing countries have a common starting point:

We all start dependent.

This is the relationship God desires for us all.

God steps up our relationship from simple dependent into children of God’s household.

A Relationship of Kinship

One of the few Greek words that stuck with me from seminary, thanks to XX, is the work ‘oikos’.

Predating the yogurt crazy, Oikos is kinship.

  • Oikos is term meaning household,
  • particularly, for us it is the household of the people of God.
  • We share a common spiritual fire
  • We share a common home
  • Our belonging includes all those in the household not limited to bloodlines.

Jesus becomes one of us so we know how to find God’s family.

So, What?

Living like a child of God

  • Knowing Jesus shows us we are brother in sisters in grace, in faith, in God
  • Knowing Jesus lived and died for us to both KNOW and ACCESS the God’s family
  • Living as one empowered and saved to love
  • Living to show that God has created us to see past our difference to be God’s family.

This first Quarter’s Project

  • Identify a member of God’s family that feeling excluded from the community
  • Model and teach them that you are their brother or sister in Christ
  • Share the fellowship of church community, God’s family
  • Continue until Christ returns.

What if I don’t want to work on that project?

  • I risk moving myself and others away from God
  • I test God’s grace rather than trust God’s grace
  • I model love of self, convenience, or laziness to myself and others
  • My disconnect from loving and connecting with the disconnected separates me from God.

You and I were born to be dependent on God

You and I are called and challenged, saved and claimed to model that with others

The New Year’s resolution is to not be childish, rather claim the help of our Oikos, our kin, all God’s people: and show the world how God’s children think, behave, trust, love, forgive, etc.

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John 1:1-14 Starting with a Word

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In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. [NRSV]

Let’s have a conversation

  • Talk about bowl games
  • Inaugurations
  • Resolutions and getting in shape
  • the weather
  • Or about purpose, meaning and life.


LATIN ‘Fiat’:  So let it be

  • Before “Let there be light” there was Word,
  • God starts creation with conversation. 
  • John’s gospel is about telling, explaining and persuasion to believe. 
  • Before the bang of creation was the Word. 

There was the relationship of love without the expression of love. If these us only self to love, love is not possible. God formed the meaning of love in our creation and spoke us into being. 

A conversation of relationship rather than just order. 

  • John does not say in the beginning there was 
  • Physics, 
  • Mathematics and 
  • Gravity. 
  • Rather in the beginning was the relationship, conversation and love. 

Antithesis 

A self absorbed creator would only need mechanics. God starts with conversation relation and meaning. That purpose is to love which requires relationship conversations as purposeful constructs. 

Long before galaxies were formed far, far away there was god who had all power purpose and possibly. The meaning at work is not only order but the why before the order. 

God so loved that creation was indivisible with Gods identity and purpose for creating. 

So what?

Speech assumes a conversation and conversation assumes a relationship and the desire to be in relationship is the core of love and thus God speeaks because God wants love, relationship and meaning 

Start a new year committed to preparing for God conversations. 

In a world that is so desperately seeking a world void of God, you and I have a mission to bridge the gap of chaos. 

Love gives the meaning to our lives else we are a purposesless existence 

People live that way every day

Examples: 

Is fairness a principle of gravity?

Is justice necessary in physics?

Is kindness or needed in science?

Does mathematics demand love?

What would we see things develop and evolve if it to find a more perfect interdependence and relationship?

Genesis. God speaks order because God desires to love more than to exist
That’s why God would die for us. It is what gives meaning to our existence and god’s identity of love. 

Because of sin, where we love ourselves more than loving god abs o e another god speaks the word of recreation in Christ to restore our relationship

2017 Resolution to 

  • Talk with God
  • Talk with family about God
  • Prepare to open conversation to God beyond bf out family and friends 

Where there is fear and division open conversations rather than taking sides and dividing relationship

Explain why you believe what you trust

keep choosing chaos over love

Applying Titus 3

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. 6 This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 The saying is sure. I desire that you insist on these things, so that those who have come to believe in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works; these things are excellent and profitable to everyone. 9 But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 

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Galatians 2.15-21 “All In” 20160612 RSUMC

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We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing. [NRSV]

Paul is caught up in a battle of traditions, power, and authority.

Galatia was a region of what is now central Turkey; that was between Greece and Israel. It was divided into four tribal groups that were known for disagreements and a tendency to quarrel. They were known to be mercenaries and slave traders. A rough crowd.

In this context, there was a church of believers who was getting grief from Christian-Jews, who were saying that converts needed to adopt Jewish traditions and adherence to the Law of Moses and then the teachings of Jesus. Namely, they were causing a stir over circumcision. (I have always thought that was a great test of salesmanship)

Paul writes to clarify this and other misinformation concerning what it means to be Christian. It is at this intersection that this passage becomes helpful to us. Think of all the cultural differences across geography and history that separate us from Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus of the Gospels and Jesus of 2016.

What does it mean to be a Christian?

  • For some, it means following a strict code of behaviors and affirmations
  • For some, it means a Christlike way of thinking in and believing
  • For some, it is actions of service and shared fellowship of relationships
  • For Paul, he felt the need to clarify that FAITH was more necessary than the LAW. (TRUST over RULES)

What most clearly defines who you are and how you order your life?

There is one of my former church members who is an over-the-top Braves fan. He is known at the ballpark as ‘Chief.’ He wears a headdress of feathers, an Indian/Native American style shirt, and pants and usually marks his face with faceprint for the added touch of authenticity. What sets him further apart is that in the last fifteen years he has only missed ten home games. His level of devotion boards on the obsessive. Chief is all in.

There was a church member from my childhood who always wore red and black clothes. He drove a red and black conversion van. His home was decorated in red and black in every room. He owned a small airplane that was also. Yes, red and black. Every weekend in the fall he attended every home and away football game of his beloved Bulldogs without exception. He is no longer married to the same woman who was my history teacher, but he is still a bulldog fan. Mr. Red and Black is all in.

Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt is arguably the fastest man in the world, beginning winning sprint races since the age of 15 to winning three gold medals at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, and becoming the first man in Olympic history to win both the 100-meter and 200-meter races in record times. Bolt won his fourth Olympic gold medal in the men’s 100-meter race at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. Bolt ran the race in 9.63 seconds, a new Olympic record, making him the first man in history to set three world records in a single Olympic Games competition. He is the first man to win both the 100 and 200 at consecutive Olympic Games, as well as the first man to ever win back-to-back gold medals in double sprints. His signature bolt pose inspired Cam Newton and fans to dab. Usain Bolt is all in.

Paul offers himself as the ultimate fan of Jesus, who came to know Jesus, not by his devotion to keeping the rules. In fact, his attempt to keep the laws was driving him further away from God. He went from super rule follower to super Trust-Jesus-in-all-things.

FAITH: is it a belief or behavior?   (Have the idea or follow the rules) And, is it a good thing or a problem?

it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Living “All In.”

Some might say Paul’s down-playing of the LAW was a disregard for the Jewish Traditions and Scriptures. What he found through a life devoted to keeping all the rules was that it lead him to be an enemy of Jesus. It was not until he became temporary blind that he began to see God revealed through Jesus’s life and saving work.

All in is not dressing the part. It is not having the right things. It is not even devoting our selves to life practices to be the greatest.

  • IT IS: Trusting Jesus’s Work
  • Trusting Jesus’s Teachings and Examples
  • Trusting Jesus to show up in our words, thoughts and service.
  • Trusting Jesus to be our strength
  • Trusting Jesus to guide our living.
  • All in Jesus, not all in my keeping the rules or ideas

Our meaning, purpose, and success in life is not having the things and awards and prizes.. it is being connected to our Creator and one another.

Paul is saying. We can Trust God because God loves us.

Rules and customs can’t love us.

Trust the relationship God makes possible through Jesus Christ.

APPLICATION: What does it mean for you/me to be Christian?

Love God because God loves

vs. Earn God’s love because I proved my love.

Think of your relationship, family, and friends:

Would you rather

people did because you told/made them what to do, or

people did for you because they loved you.

Show love because you can love someone,

Rather than because you have to love someone.

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Romans 12:9-16 “Christian Living” 20160605 RSUMC

XinMYheartLove must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. [NRSV]

Down in My Heart

Do you remember that Camp/ VBS Song: I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy, down in my heart! Where? ” Down in my heart!”

It is a great reminder of where the core of the Christian life begins.
To be a follower of Jesus Christ might very different than being a Christian

Paul is building a case for the life and Christain community that is ours to emulate.

Let your love be genuine.
I love fresh lemonade verses I love you even when you misbehave.
Hate evil.
Strong words: Let’s be clear about evil. Don’t vilify the person, hate the unGodly things, attitudes, look past the words, to the other persons’ heart.
Hold on to Good.
It’s going to be a bumpy ride; not every handle is one you need to hold.
Devotion to God models our love of others.
Start at the beginning, love God first, greatest commandment.
Honor others, first.
Think from the other side first before you post or speak.
Life for God with a Passion
Don’t leave home without a case of Zeal for God.
Don’t be lukewarm or worse.
Keep the Spiritual fires warm while serving the Lord

So, if you are telling, teaching, explaining what it means to be a Christian:

1. Christian living begins in the heart.

Genuine heart hates evil, but holds on to Good, models devotions, respects we are different, but is passionate about living for God.

Attitudes in Action

Second to our Heart are the thoughts and ideas in our head.

Facebook and all social media are easy targets to see where people, who may have great hearts for God, but choose to forget or not to listen to their heart.

Here is the test:

  • If you find you can share Joyful Hope on Facebook, sign in!
  • If you can use it to patiently see the world through others’ perspectives, log on!
  • If you can use the media to offer your heart’s passionate prayers? Get social.
  • If not, don’t sign in, don’t log on, get to heating up your God’s Spirit in you instead.
1. Christian living begins in the heart of God
2. Christian living filters God’s voice through the world’s voice.

Our Witness in Community

To live in a Christian is to draw on the heart relationship we have with God, filter through what is joyful, hateful, shameful, grace-filled, good and profane and use this perspective in the world. Too many people are Christ-like in their hearts OR minds but get derailed using these tools in the world beyond themselves.

Paul’s list of sharing our witness in a relationship with others.
+? “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.”
Interesting, Paul begins with helping the “Lord’s People” in need.
+ Practice hospitality
Have an open heart and mind that welcomes others.
+ Bless those who persecute you.
Know that not everyone will return kindness and love and grace.
-Do not curse, rather bless
Take the high, Godly, Good Road, don’t blame, bless and grow away from evil.
+ Rejoice with others
Celebrate when the news is good, and Joy is clear
+ Mourn with others
Be open to comfort, even when you are not the one hurting
+ Live in Harmony
Find ways to get along without having to agree with everyone.
– Do not be proud
Remember God loves and saves you, AND everyone else.
– Don’t be conceited, Associate with the poor and wealthy
Be a friend to those who are easy and difficult to live with.

Being a Christian is easy if you rare filling out a survey.
More people are identifying themselves as less Christian these days.

  • What does it look like when we say we are Christian but have lost hold of the heart of God?
  • What does it feel like when we say we are Christian people but have forgotten or never learned how to find our way home and settle for where we are rather than where we belong?
  • What does it sound like when we have our faith all worked out in our head, and heart but other folks don’t see, hear or experience God around us?

Paul reminds the church at Rome and Rock Spring:

It takes all three, growing in the heart of God, filtering through good and evil, to model our relationship with everyone.

Thank goodness we come to the table to start our journey today.

Here is our grace to begin anew and fresh.

Come.

Christian living begins in the heart of God
Christian living filters God’s voice through the world’s voice.
Christian living must interact with the community and reflect God at work through us.

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John 10:22-30 “Faith Snatchers” 20160417 RSUMC

RayGASmile

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” [NRSV]

The Festival of the Dedication

A Jewish Feast of Lights celebrating a time between the Old and New Testament to the Maccabean Revolt when the temple was reclaim and rededicated after the Jews were forced to give up the temple and the practicing of their faith.

This celebration is better known as Hanukkah. When the temple was reclaimed only one small jar of oil could be found to light the temple lights. The jar was enough oil to burn the lights for one day, yet the oil burned for eight days.

It is at this celebration of reclaiming the temple worship, the miracle of lights, and a restoring of the faith by the Jews that Jesus makes the claim that leads him to the cross.

John 10:30 The Father and I are One.

There it is: Jesus said it as plainly as at any other point in the Gospels.

  • The I Am that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob called father.
  • I am that father. I am, I Am with you.
  • The I Am the Moses saw in the burning bush and the cloud guided them in the wilderness.
  • The Spirit that moved over the face of the earth at creation, I was the one working that day.
  • I’m the Light of the World.

So During the Festival of Lights, Jesus, the Light of the World, is Revealed.

  • How are we willing to shine the light of Christ on the darkness in the world?
  • When are we willing to enlighten others that we filter life through our faith
  • Can you see yourself, filled with the ‘oil’ or fuel of the Holy Spirit to be a vessel for Christ?

Live as one connected to God.

  • They might take my body, but not my spirit
  • They might take my things, but not my identity
  • They might take my position, but not my self-worth
  • They might take my health, but not my eternal life
  • They might take my reputation, yet God will never let go.

 Why Wouldn’t we trust/reveal our Christ connection?

There are those people and things that grab at our connection.

Driving through a neighborhood, my phone wifi trying to logon to just any signal it can find. When my setting is to grab onto anything, even in the name of saving some money, I am putting myself at risk.

  • Im not as pretty
  • I’m not as wealthy
  • I’m not as popular
  • I’m not as happy
  • I’m not as worthy
  • I’m not as important
  • I’m alone
  • I’m not appreciated
  • I’m not included
  • I’m lost and forgotten
  • I don’t have time
  • I don’t have enough
  • I’m not ready

Every time we listen to theise voice we pry away at God’s grip on our hearts. God will not let go, unless we ask him to let us go our own way.

How to I/Someone find the way back to God?

Ray Charles sings about it in our state theme song, Georgia on my Mind.

Other arms reach out to me
Other eyes smile tenderly
Still in peaceful dreams I see
The road leads back to you”
[Words Revised by John’s Gospel]
I said [Jesus], oh [Jesus]
No peace I find
Just an old sweet song
Keeps [Jesus] on my mind

Change lyrics of the World’s songs, hooks and teaser to reframe our connection with the one who will never let us go.

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