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How playwright Tetsuro Shigematsu has reworked my homiletics categories – The Christian Century



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Fresh a long time in American preaching have tried a number of routes to resolve the issue of the uninteresting sermon. Fred Craddock recommended we hold forth narratively. Don’t boil a biblical textual content all the way down to summary “issues,” however moderately, provide the Bible because the Bible gifts itself: narratively. The issue is none of Craddock’s scholars may do that in addition to Craddock may. Aside from Barbara Brown Taylor, who did it so neatly that it used to be discouraging to us mere mortals.

Jason Byassee teaches homiletics and biblical hermeneutics on the Vancouver College of Theology in British Columbia.
Tom Lengthy has observed a response towards such nondoctrinal preaching. His scholars aren’t allergic to doctrine and now not entertained through tales. They have a tendency to evangelise, neatly, three-point doctrinal sermons—of the very kind that Fred Craddock as soon as reacted towards.
In the meantime, evangelicals influenced through Andy Stanley manner a sermon with one “large thought,” illustrated with a large introductory tale intended to hook hearers into listening.
In the middle of all of this, my scholars need to discover ways to hold forth. They have a tendency to not be purists on the place the most efficient concepts come from. They poach from evangelical preachers on the internet, generally with out telling us, their extra liberal professors. They’re impressed through Nadia Bolz-Weber’s brash cussing and Steven Furtick’s gigachurch repartee and the Black church’s custom of party. Is there the rest for them in educational homiletics of no matter stripe?
In my school room, I’ve became to a novel supply, the actor and playwright Tetsuro Shigematsu. Tetsuro’s brother Ken is the senior pastor at 10th Church in Vancouver, British Columbia, a multisite church within the Alliance custom, and he presented me to Tetsuro’s assist. I’ve discovered a lot in what I name “the dictionary of Tetsuro” to handle the preaching ills of my homiletics scholars. Ken it appears concurs with me. He incessantly sends personnel individuals to check with Tetsuro, and he calls in his brother to judge possible applicants for preaching positions at 10th—although Tetsuro isn’t a preacher or a Christian.
Tetsuro makes use of a novel vocabulary when he talks to my preaching scholars: he talks about such things as the glass tube, the eruption of the actual, the name of the game, the oasis, and the lighthouse. Every time period illuminates the preaching vocation in new tactics, during the eyes of any individual who’s a skeptic of the career.
Let’s get started together with his thought of the glass tube. Preachers, Tetsuro says, could be bodily within the room (or extra lately within the Zoom), however they’re now not actually provide. An invisible enclosure separates them from the remainder of us, as though manufactured from glass. That is true whether or not they’re world-renowned or are mumbling over their notes for the primary time. They’re impervious to their setting, nonporous to goings-on of their midst. “It’s like they’ve hit the play button,” Tetsuro says.
He contrasts this with the eruption of the actual. Assume with me of the layperson you’ve possibly invited to present a sworn statement after your exquisitely crafted sermon. Taking a look in any respect the ones faces of pals and strangers would possibly render them speechless. Unexpectedly everybody leans in. The child on their telephone seems to be up. The power snoozer wakes up. That is one among humanity’s largest fears, going down in actual time: whole forfeiture of language. Steadily the dam of silence breaks, and the testifier provides one thing way more memorable and edifying than your sermon. However that second used to be the eruption of the actual. We really feel what the speaker is feeling. On this case, terror.
Preachers suppose the polished, glossy glass tube is best than the eruption of the actual, so we over-prepare. Tetsuro advises my scholars to be courageous and under-prepare. We would like the eruption of the actual, he says. We wish to be within the room, to have its power have an effect on us. Handiest through under-preparing are we able to acknowledge each second at the back of the pulpit for what it actually is: an completely distinctive second by no means to be repeated in human historical past. This meeting of souls at this actual second hasn’t ever came about prior to and will by no means once more. Overly polished preaching misses this particularity. A minimum of the blanked-out individual is within the room. Maximum folks, with our overly treasured preparation, aren’t. “An inarticulate utterance blurted out in truth within the second will all the time be extra robust than our superbly crafted sentences appearing off our overly pricey MDivs,” Tetsuro says.
He provides the instance of a protection legal professional who hasn’t ever misplaced a case. The name of the game? He has the self-discipline to under-prepare. Maximum attorneys have overinvested sunk prices and will’t abandon their meticulous making plans. The result’s that they’re so busy having a look at their notes, they don’t make an effort to seem into the jurors’ eyes. Tetsuro additionally tells a tale from his personal revel in. On a panel at an tournament the place he’d overlooked to arrange, he listened extra closely than he ever needed to his copanelists. His presentation used to be the most efficient he’d completed: as a substitute of studying a paper, he used to be in truth enticing his colleagues. Recall to mind this as turning the power of tension into an influence supply for perfor­mance. If the chance is freezing up, the fruit is that you simply get to be within the second, take in its power, and radiate it again.
Tetsuro’s advice right here syncs with some fresh paintings on homiletics that advocates preaching with out notes. This doesn’t imply memorizing the sermon—that may be the glass tube in every single place once more, even thicker. Lengthy has steadily stated you don’t need to memorize your sermon to wreck the chain to the manuscript—you simply need to know it. Those that’ve taken this jump inform me it calls for extra preparation at first however much less as time is going on and also you achieve self assurance. Preachers may envy actors and stand-up comedians—they get to reuse the similar subject material all through their display. For us, Sunday turns out to come back again round each 3 days. A few of us can memorize that incessantly, however maximum don’t. Tetsuro recommends taking notes into the pulpit which have been lowered to hieroglyphics: symbols, now not even bullet issues. The ones treasured sentences you perfected on your manuscript, he says, are killing your preaching.
This sort of spontaneity, then again, handiest works along with some other access from the Tetsuro dictionary: the name of the game. For this access, Tetsuro takes the location of the hearer. What makes the hearer wish to concentrate? He confesses that once he attends worship to listen to a preacher he’s training, he steadily intentionally arrives past due, proper firstly of the sermon. (He can’t stand the making a song.) As he is available in, in search of a seat, he’s taking inventory: he says that he can inform if this individual is value being attentive to in not up to 30 seconds.
He defends this Malcolm Gladwell–like “skinny slice” with a tale from his partner, a fierce mama undergo for whom no babysitter used to be excellent sufficient. She as soon as noticed two siblings strolling in combination and spotted the way in which the older sister listened to her more youthful brother. She employed her as a sitter at the spot, in spite of the woman’s protest that she’d by no means babysat an afternoon. She took a skinny slice, but it surely held the entire knowledge she wanted. Easiest babysitter ever, judged handiest through a second when she used to be seen being attentive to any individual more youthful. Sermon listeners pass judgement on preachers simply as briefly.
The name of the game, in step with Tetsuro, is the rationale that listeners can pass judgement on preachers so briefly. This can be a subtext that the preacher is speaking as she preaches.
Tetsuro’s secret: he believes that he’s an enchanting individual. I might say that he’s: he’s completed numerous cool issues; he has a moustache that does circus methods. However the fact or falsity isn’t the purpose. What issues is that he believes it. If the speaker thinks they’re fascinating, others will take into accout and sweetness, OK, you’re fascinating, now, why?
Tetsuro is aware of preachers will piously demur at this level. “I’m now not meant to be fascinating. I’m pointing to God, now not myself,” we are saying. (I stated this very factor to him.) He pushes again: that’s a self-serving protecting tool. Any such stance provides us quilt to keep away from risking the rest, lest we put ourselves in the market and fail. Individuals who collect have an interest within the individual entrusted with their consideration, even supposing only for a second. And perhaps, only for a second, all essential suspicion apart, they’re prepared to have an interest. Preachers will have to reply in sort: sure, I’m fascinating; your willingness to possibility consideration to me can be rewarded.
However why does he name this a secret? That may be a little tougher to clutch. Why now not simply say, “I’m fascinating”?
When Tetsuro’s daughter used to be little and there used to be a gift to present to her mother, he would remember to display it to her prematurely. “Don’t inform mummy,” he’d say, “it’s a secret.”
“It used to be like her center used to be full of helium,” he says. “She would stroll another way all day. The home would fill along with her pleasure. It might animate all she did.” In contrast, consider if he advised her a tragic secret. Her day could be full of dread and anxiousness. The name of the game you elevate carries you.
And that is the place gospel preachers can riff to our center’s pleasure. What’s our secret? Neatly, it’s the similar as the name of the game to all of Christianity: a resurrected rabbi actually laws the cosmos. The brand new advent actually is coming. No, in truth, I imply it’s already right here. God guarantees to do for advent what came about to Jesus on Easter. You’ll see. Someday everybody will see. This isn’t gnosis, a secret to be had handiest to the choose few. We intend to inform any person who’ll pay attention or even some who assume they received’t.
However Tetsuro notes the significance of withholding a bit of. When he used to be a journalist on the Canadian Broadcasting Company, Tetsuro supervised interns. A herbal first project could be “accumulating a streeter”: in different phrases, the interns would pass to a side road nook and ask people about one thing happening on the town. Two hours later they might slink again, defeated, and Tetsuro would say, “Let me bet. No person would communicate to you, proper?” Because the interns have been new to this, they’d felt fraudulent asking passersby for info. They might mumble and apologetically ask, “Sir? Ma’am? Can I . . .” and pedestrians would brush proper previous.
When Tetsuro first accumulated streeters, he had come from the worlds of stand-up and tv writing. He slouched towards a streetlight, mic dangling casually in hand, and other people would prevent. “What’s your deal?”
“Not anything, transfer alongside.”
“No, critically, what’s up with you?
“OK, however do you actually wish to know?”
The name of the game Tetsuro communicated used to be that chatting with him would be the maximum fascinating factor that occurs to you now not simply these days, however all week. You’ll dine in this dialog for a month; chances are you’ll bring it to mind for your deathbed. By means of withholding his want just a bit, Tetsuro by no means had bother accumulating streeters.
The adaptation between what the interns attempted and what Tetsuro did? Sheer phantasm.
However the different a part of the name of the game is finding what actually makes you, the preacher, who you’re. Tetsuro calls this the metastory or the working device. That is the core tale you inform your self about who you’re within the universe. What are the issues which might be simple so that you can do this others in finding arduous? That’s a part of your metastory. The place have been you born and to whom? A excellent metastory is sort of a excellent praise: it’s nontransferable. It handiest works for you.
That is the place I’ve discovered myself pushing again essentially the most on Tetsuro’s grasp category. I’m a middle-class, paunched, balding, White, southern, cisgender male. What might be able to be fascinating about me? Prior to I will be able to dive into “Jesus is fascinating, I’m now not,” Tetsuro calls my bluff. I’m a southerner in Canada. Lean into that, he advises. Play it up. Put on a belt buckle. Lean into the accessory.
Tetsuro plays autobiographical theater wherein he highlights his otherness. He wears outlandishly “Jap” outfits that no Jap individual in truth wears now or ever did. He does it to compel the target market’s consideration.
In church buildings, although, taking part in up your otherness doesn’t all the time paintings. Some congregations in finding it definitely threatening—particularly in the event you vary from what they believe normative. And in order that, the theater global’s famend openness and the church’s fragile anxiousness lead them to appear two very other worlds.
I hesitate, I say to Tetsuro, to show myself right into a cartoon. Wonderful, he says. Simply be prepared to be a bit of extra southern, and a bit of extra up-front about what makes you fascinating.
I straight away bring to mind the legion of audio system I’ve heard in my lifestyles who assume they’re fascinating however are not any such factor. They arrive off as boastful, now not fascinating. Or I bring to mind the legion of secrets and techniques in the market about which I don’t have any pastime in any respect. (Fraternity initiation practices are evoked.) A secret calls for a mix of pastime and hiddenness; some preliminary wisdom however higher wisdom defrayed.
Right here I believe Tetsuro and the theater are merely right kind: lean into your bizarre. It’s what God gave you to succeed in others. Don’t shed it, like a provincial accessory. It’s a part of your metastory. Name it your giftedness through the Holy Spirit in the event you like.
I steadily educate preaching scholars to intensify the bizarre in a biblical textual content. I borrow this from the nice Eugene Lowry, extra within the homiletical custom of Craddock’s storyteller—dive for the bizarre. Lean into the strange. It’s there within the textual content. Deliver it to lifestyles on your sermon. Once more that is opposite to our gained technique for some generations now, the place we gloss over the bizarre, record it all the way down to dimension, render it as harmless as conceivable. Evangelicals name this apologetics; we mainliners steadily merely keep away from the morally questionable texts. Narrative homiletics could also be higher at this, however I’m now not satisfied. What number of sermons do you listen at the prophet Ezekiel objecting to God’s command to devour his meals cooked over human dung and profitable the reprieve to make use of animal dung as a substitute? What’s edifying in that? No thought. But it surely’s within the Bible for some reason why. Move in finding it. Or the ladies on the tomb in Mark who’re the primary to listen to of the resurrection—the apostles to the apostles, because the Orthodox name them. What do they do? Refuse the primary command to inform of the resurrection (Mark 16:8). How peculiar, as Will Willimon would say. And the start of an enchanting sermon.
If we will be able to dive for the bizarre in a biblical textual content, as some homileticians are beginning to say, why wouldn’t we do the similar with our personal tale? This isn’t the overwrought cliché about individuality. Monty Python’s retort to the proclamation “You’re all folks!” is pitch-perfect: one man shouts again, “I’m now not.” It’s extra a mirrored image at the imago Dei. (Whilst I’m at it: Tetsuro says by no means use fancy languages within the pulpit. That’s an influence transfer, he says, born of lack of confidence.) God makes us every distinctive reflections of divine glory. That’s true whether or not you and I imagine it or now not. God doesn’t bypass your personhood to get to the folks on your church or group. God is going throughout you, for a reason why. The name of the game is discovering that reason why.
The time period in Tetsuro’s dictionary that could be a very powerful for me is the oasis. Tetsuro notices that numerous Andy Stanley–knowledgeable sermons get started nice. The massive opening vignette, the tale that hooks hearers. It’s non-public, it’s gripping, it’s value listening to. It’s an oasis. Then, he says, the barren region. All that exegesis. All that historical past. The stuff Bible nerds care about, that preaching categories insist they main in, that church other people tolerate however truthfully don’t love. That’s the barren region. The oasis is whilst you inform a tale. One of these tale you inform at a cocktail party. You don’t refer in your notes. Those are distinctive, pleasant, value being attentive to. Oases. Then, extra barren region.
The trick, in fact, isn’t to make the entire sermon into a cocktail party escapade. That’s the worst of the narrative preaching experiment. None folks has sufficient tales for that. The trick is to talk of the Bible and theology in the similar simple, conversational, pleasant, unexpected method. Now that’s arduous. It takes huge preparation and find out about and finding out from the most efficient commentators, theologians, or even comedians. But it surely’s homiletical gold. All oasis, no barren region.
In the end this: in finding your lighthouse. We’ve shifted from the eremitical to the nautical, you’ve spotted. In finding the listener who’s filling you with power, nodding, giggling on the jokes. And feed that individual! Unashamedly. I’ve lengthy completed the other. In finding the hater, the antagonist, whether or not a sleeper or a adversarial glarer. I attempt to drill proper into their cranium. They’re on my thoughts anyway, and there they’re, helpless: let ‘em have it! Tetsuro issues out that is greater than a bit of misanthropic on my phase. Why do this to your self? In finding the sunshine in the market, the only beckoning you house. Hold forth to them. You’ll by no means win the hater, however that lighthouse properties a large reflect and will illumine others too.
Tetsuro Shigematsu isn’t the primary to peer the overlap between preaching and different varieties of efficiency. There’s a reason why the most efficient preachers you already know eat stand-up comedy: the timing, the pacing, the eruption of the actual as a substitute of the glass tube, the willingness to be their bizarre selves, the metastory, the oasis, the lighthouse.
Now, let that secret fill your center with helium and produce radiance to the room as you get up, under-prepared, to talk.
A model of this newsletter seems within the print version below the identify “Preaching bizarre.”


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The Friend Who Sticks Closer than a Brother




The Friend Who Sticks Closer than a Brother

Embracing True Friendship: The Friend Who Sticks Closer Than a Brother

Friendship is a valuable asset that enriches our lives by providing companionship, support, and a shoulder to cry on. But have you ever had a buddy who goes above and beyond—someone who remains closer than a brother? In a world where relationships can be fickle, a friend who sticks by us through thick and thin is a rare and priceless gift.

More Than Just Blood Ties

Consider the tie between siblings, which is based on blood and shared history. Consider a buddy who is more than just a family member. “One who has untrustworthy friends soon comes to ruin,” says Proverbs 18:24 (NIV), “but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

This verse describes a friendship that goes beyond basic conditions. It’s a bond founded on trust, loyalty, and real concern for one another.

Continuous Support

Consider a buddy who is present not only during happy times but also during difficult times. This type of friend is unconcerned about changing circumstances or personal gain. They provide their presence, encouragement, and steadfast support.

Jesus expresses the core of such friendship in John 15:13 (NIV): “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. This selfless affection serves as the foundation for a lasting connection.

Journeys Together

Consider a friend you’ve shared many stages of life with—the highs, the lows, and everything in between. This shared experience forges a link that extends beyond surface-level exchanges. The value of companionship is brilliantly captured in Ecclesiastes 4:9–10 (NIV): “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.”

A friend who sticks closer than a brother is someone who goes beside us through life’s ups and downs, lending a solid hand and an ear to listen.

A Mirror of God’s Love

As a symbol of God’s love for us, consider the buddy who sticks closer than a brother. God Himself offers an unbroken, unchanging, and everlasting companionship. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” says the Bible in Romans 8:38–39.

God’s love is the ultimate paradigm of true friendship—a love that is not conditional but remains faithful regardless of what happens.

Conclusion: Value true friendship.

A friend who sticks closer to you than a sibling is a treasure to be treasured. This type of friendship is founded on love, trust, and mutual care rather than convenience or shared interests. May we seek to be that sort of friend to others in our lives, just as God offers us His unfailing love.

In a world where relationships can be fleeting, let us create friendships that will endure. Let us be the sort of friends who are present in both joy and sadness, who offer unconditional support, and who mirror God’s unfailing love. We are reminded of the beauty of true friendship, which clings closer than a brother, as we welcome and cherish these unique and valuable ties.

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The Just God




The Just God

The Just God: The Divine Balance of Justice and Mercy

The concept of justice is intertwined with the fabric of human society. We seek justice, responsibility, and reparation for wrongs done. But have you ever pondered a God who is not only just but also perfectly just? The Just God is a lighthouse of truth and righteousness, providing a profound awareness of justice and kindness that transcends human comprehension.

Justice in Pursuit

Consider a world where wrongdoers go unpunished and the disadvantaged have no recourse. The pursuit of justice is a natural human goal that reflects a feeling of rightness and order. And if we as humans value justice, how much more should the Creator of the universe, who is completely just?

According to Deuteronomy 32:4 (NIV), “He is the rock; his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. He is a loyal God who does no wrong, who is straight and just. This verse reveals God’s character, which is characterized by unwavering justice.

Justice and Mercy in Balance

Consider yourself in front of a judge who holds you accountable for every action and decision you make. Imagine that same judge showing mercy and giving you a second opportunity despite the evidence against you. The just God is kind as well as just.

This delicate balance is captured in Psalm 103:10–11 (NIV): “He does not treat us as our sins deserve, nor does He repay us according to our iniquities. For his love for people who fear him is as high as the skies are above the earth. God’s justice is balanced by his unending love and kindness.

The Redemption of Justice

Consider a debt that you will never be able to repay—a debt of mistakes and wrongs that weigh heavy on your soul. In His perfect justice, the just God provides a solution. God provides a mechanism for justice to be served and redemption to be offered through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” says Romans 3:23–24 (NIV), “and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. This is an example of justice being met via the redemptive act of Christ’s sacrifice.

A Call to Justice

Consider a society in which justice is not simply a notion but a way of life. In our interactions with others, the just God calls us to exemplify justice. Micah 6:8 (NIV) states unequivocally, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. What does the Lord expect of you? Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”

Living justly entails treating people with fairness, compassion, and respect, as the character of the just God requires.

Finishing: Adoring the Just God

The Just God asks us to comprehend the breadth of His justice—a justice that supports truth, requires accountability, and strikes a balance between mercy and justice. God’s justice and mercy merge in the person of Jesus Christ, offering us redemption and restoration.

May we turn to the just God as our ultimate standard as we traverse a world that frequently grapples with issues of fairness. May we seek His wisdom and counsel in order to live justly and treat others with love and justice. We find not only a paradigm of perfect justice but also an invitation to experience the transformative power of His kindness when we embrace the Just God.

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The Pleasure of Serving Others: A Pathway to Achievement




The Joy of Serving Others: A Pathway to Fulfillment

The Pleasure of Serving Others: A Highway to Contentment

Have you ever ever felt the nice and cozy glow that effects from lending a serving to hand to a stranger, the enjoyment that lasts for days after the act of kindness? That emotion offers a way of the pride of serving to others. The straightforward act of serving to can give us a sense of function and pleasure in contrast to the rest in a society that incessantly pushes us to place our consideration on ourselves.

The Want to Serve

Believe a society the place everybody labored to fortify the lives of people of their instant neighborhood. The need to lend a serving to hand, proportion a load, and supply comfort is on the core of carrier. The instance used to be established through Jesus Himself when he stated, “For even the Son of Guy didn’t come to be served, however to serve, and to provide his lifestyles as a ransom for plenty of.” (NIV, Mark 10:45)

Serving others is extra than just a nice deed; it is a way to emulate the compassion and love that Christ proven for us.

Discovering Pleasure in Selfless Giving

Believe spending time with the aged or going to a neighborhood refuge to hear their stories and cause them to really feel essential. Those tiny acts of kindness won’t appear to be a lot, however they be capable to make any person’s day higher, create relationships, and toughen a sense of group.

A better feeling of pleasure emerges after we set aside our personal issues and be aware of the wishes of others. The Bible admonishes us, “Every of you can use no matter present you’ve gotten won to serve others, as trustworthy stewards of God’s grace in its more than a few paperwork.” (NIV) 1 Peter 4:10 We specific the particular talents God has given us through serving others, and it’s in those deeds of carrier that we discover authentic pleasure.

Have an effect on Unmeasurable

Take into consideration the impact if all of us realized to experience serving to others. If we take a bit spoil from our tense schedules to lend a hand a neighbor, supply a sympathetic ear, or donate cash to a reason we reinforce. Small acts of kindness have the facility to unfold, sparking a sequence response of generosity and optimistic exchange.

In step with the NIV translation of Matthew 25:40, Jesus stated, “Actually I inform you, no matter you probably did for this sort of least of those brothers and sisters of mine, you probably did for me.” No longer simplest can we fortify the lives of other folks we serve, however we additionally perform Jesus’ command to like and deal with the ones round us.

Development Relationships and Connections

Believe the sensation of camaraderie that comes from cooperating with others to reach a shared purpose. Folks come in combination via carrier, growing ties and friendships that differently won’t have took place. It serves as a reminder that we’re all part of a broader group, and that group would possibly take pleasure in the acts we do.

Serving others permits us to peer the arena from many angles and to realize the demanding situations and victories of other folks round us. Our lives are enriched and {our relationships} are deepened through this sensitivity.

Conclusion: Discovering Contentment Via Carrier

Every people has a skill that is able to be opened: the pleasure of serving to others. It serves as a reminder that our lives are meant to be about extra than just our personal pursuits; they’re an opportunity to fortify the lives of others.

Let’s thus embody the pride of serving to others, if it is by means of deeds of kindness, volunteering, or simply being conscious about their wishes. The easy act of serving would possibly supply mild and hope in a global that every so often turns out overwhelming. As we emulate Christ and prolong ourselves in love, we no longer simplest exchange the lives of others but additionally revel in a deep feeling of success and enjoyment that overflows into our personal hearts.

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