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July 8, 2018, 6:54 AM

Actions of the Light

Good Morning, Grace and Peace to you from the Creator, Christ and Spirit. May the words from my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to God.

I have a question. Have you ever suffered that friend who just insisted that you must do something and either you knew you couldn't, shouldn't or at least the time for it was not now? I hope you have not been that friend but instead the one who listened and heard what the other was saying. Either way, we speak of Jesus understanding us, because he suffered the same as we did, and in our Gospel today we have a bit of a unique suffered as we might have. Today in the Gospel lesson we see the disciples trying to convince Jesus of what he needs to do.

Now lets put this in context. It says in the lesson that it was about time for the festival of booths, also know as Sukkot. This is a Jewish festival that continues to be held and which is commanded in the bible for Jews. It is a harvest festival and it is a commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt which is thus is about the dependence on God. In the time of the temple, which is the time Jesus was living in, it was a time for pilgrimage, if at all possible to Jerusalem and the Temple, and so what his disciples are suggesting is that Jesus take the traditional pilgrimage and in the process others will get to see the truth about him and come to believe.

Jesus being the fully self differentiated and fully realized person, tells the disciples that it is not his time to go up to Jerusalem. Obviously, to us who have the benefit of hindsight, this makes sense since his next trip to Jerusalem is to be arrested, tried and hung on the cross. While none of these events were avoidable, the timing was important and this was not the time.

Now in defense of the disciple, he had come to know and believe the truth of salvation through Jesus and what the text tells us is that he wanted his brother to witness the same things, so that his brother might also come to believe. The cause is noble but the timing is wrong and the disciple did not know that.

So, I think we can both take heart and strength from this passage. We can take heart when we do that which is not the way of the world because it is the way of God and we can gain strength knowing that Jesus faced the same challenges and had the strength to go through it. If Jesus had the strength to go through it and we know the guarantee is that Jesus is with us, then we too have the strength to go through the challenge and hold our ground on doing what is right.

It is wonderful to talk about having the strength to do what is right because we are accompanied in all we do by God but what is right. The question of judging our actions is important and while specific rules are nice as we learned earlier this summer, in our study of the ten commandment, most rules are better thought of as the minimum bar than thinking of them as the outside edge of our conduct. In other words, rules are better when you never even come close to violating them.

If rules are best thought of as the minimum bar that would indicate that there is a higher standard that can be applied when considering our actions. For this I turn to our text from 1John. I turn here because if we know the nature and character of God then we can look to live in the actions that are consistent with the nature and character of God. What does the text say, “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.” 1Jo 1:5

Now we need to find a way to make this nature and character also a way to judge our actions. The good news is that this is relatively easy. If God is light, then those actions that are consistent with the nature and character of God, are those things which can be in the presence of light. Consider, the thief does not want their actions brought into the light, they need them to remain in the dark or there will be consequences they do not want to face. On the other hand, the person who helps their neighbor to rebuild their lawn mower, may not want out of modesty to let everyone know what they did, but in truth if people came to know about it there is no shame.

Looking at the text again I am reminded that when we walk in the light or when our actions a those which can survive the scrutiny of others and show themselves to be positive, then we can walk with others. Walking with others we have fellowship as the text reminds us. If our actions need to remain concealed, then it is much harder to form friendships. If our actions are better left in the dark, then the shame may keep us from being with others, so that they do not learn what we did. If we helped our neighbor to have a better relationship with their family then it is easy to be in fellowship with their family. If we are committing adultery with our neighbor then likely we do not want to spend time with the rest of their family, lest we make a slip and the whole world will know and we would suffer shame and embarrassment.

So, the question of will it thrive in the light is, I think, a good measure for whether an action is in keeping with the nature and character of God. Consider, helping with painting, mowing, hanging a picture, offering a meal, offering a ride, being gentle and patient with the confused and befuddled, planting a tree, and taking a walk, are all things that we need not worry if others know we did them. These are things that will survive the scrutiny of being brought into the light.

Likewise things that we want to keep in the dark are generally sinful and damaging to fellowship. Consider, I took fruit from the neighbors tree without asking and/or knowing that they have asked others not to, road rage, voyeurism, taking more than your fair share, assuming you are entitled to luxuries in life, graffitti, not having patience with the elderly and generally anything that preferences my benefit while creating a disadvantage for the other, are all things that I would rather no one every know I am doing.

So, bring it to light or keep it in the dark is a good standard. Being willing to do the the right thing, even when others are encouraging you to do something else is important and we have help from God. But there is this not so small detail that I may get the equation wrong or I may act on impulse and suddenly finding myself not wanting my actions brought to light, what then, am I doomed to live outside the fellowship of believers and outside the presence of God. No, is the simple answer. That is a benefit that those of us who follow Jesus the Christ have. Jesus Christ in suffering and dying on the cross became the advocate for us, the force which brings us back into fellowship with the light by ensuring those things are forgiven and forgotten.

Thus this morning we have learned that Jesus helps us have the strength to do what we know is right and to remain on the right path, even when others are encouraging otherwise. We have this wonderful standard of light to judge which actions are in keeping with the nature and character of God. And we have forgiveness and reconciliation with God when we get it wrong, which no doubt we will from time to time. Thus I send you forth from this time together to live in the light


June 24, 2018, 12:00 AM

Thou Shall Not Covet

Thou Shall Not Covet Thy Neighbors House, Spouse or Stuff.


I left out of that list one item and let me start with it because it is the easiest of the things officially on the list. I assume that none of you are coveting your neighbors slave. It is worthy of two comments; First, this is one of those place where it is obvious the bible was written to a different people than those sitting here this morning. Second, if your neighbor has a slave to be coveted then I suggest strongly that you or we need to go to the authorities. Sadly, the realities of slavery and trafficking people are all to real on this planet even today. So, I will assume that you are not coveting your neighbors slave.


Moving on to “you are not to covet what belongs to the other” we have finally gotten to the tip of the arrow I spoke of last week. Remember, I was suggesting that the last six of the Ten Commandments all point in a direction and so are more than simply six rules to be followed to the letter of the law. Well here is the point on that arrow.

Lets review a little bit. We started with the physical harms you might do to your neighbor, moving from the direct to the indirect harms. We then had the verbal harm you might do to your neighbor. Now we have the mental thoughts about harm to your neighbor and remember Jesus says that whatever you have thought is as bad as what you have done. This commandment is about what we think and there are two Luther writes:

We are to fear and love God, so that we do not try to trick our neighbors out of their inheritance or property or try to get it for ourselves by claiming to have a legal right to it and the like, but instead be of help and service to them in keeping what is theirs.


We are to fear and love God, so that we do not entice, force, or steal away from our neighbors their spouses, household workers, or livestock, but instead urge them to stay and fulfill their responsibilities to our neighbors.


So, Luther once again goes to the place of instead of seeking to harm your neighbor you should be about the work of helping your neighbor. So, let me go there...

Instead of not being jealous your neighbor has: a pool, a bigger house, newer renovations, a great inheritance, a beautiful spouse or the perfect SUV – Instead we are to help our neighbor to maintain these wonderful things and wish them more and better if they want it. Here are my questions:

  1. Do you know your neighbor? Yes the one who lives in the domicile next to yours.

  2. Who are those people that you hang out with and spend time with, that are not just your spouse and your children?

  3. Which unrealistic television person, from make believe land, are you being jealous of and more and more they find us comparing our lives to those of the people we watch on TV (and the internet) not the people who live directly around us.

  4. Who is the person you most disagree with and when was the last time you prayed for them and I mean honestly prayed not for their conversion but for their well being.

So let me just point out that many of us do not know the people living directly next to us. And if we move that bar out to the second or third domicile then most of us statistically do not know the people who live there or anything about them more than maybe to recognize their face. And thus in the most direct sense we don't know our neighbors and maybe that is a problem.

If you were not able to point out who you hang with and spend time with outside of your spouse and children, then you are missing an opportunity for community and we all need community. In fact I am reading more about how the lack of community is leading us to be less civil, increases the crime rate and increases the abuse of drugs, alcohol, pornography, etc. We all need community, maybe it is the other parent at soccer, maybe it is the parent you see all the time at the school, maybe it is a coworker who you occasionally fraternize with outside of work, maybe it is the walking partner or ….(pick something different). We all need neighbors and they all need neighbors and thus we need to spend time with people and yes even people who hold opinions that are different from ours and might change our minds or at least our understand of what those who are asking for a different outcome want, because we will never achieve world peace or even neighborhood peace unless we understand not what the other says they want but the longing and desire behind that wish.

Sometimes examples are helpful. Let us say for a moment that you are open to the LGBTQIA+ community and you meet with someone who is spouting rhetoric that is against this group of people. First, can you pray for that person to find peace and wholeness. Second, can you listen to them long enough to understand what about this reality they find to be confusing or challenges the norms that they use to give life value, ... or is it that they really want grandchildren and are afraid their child might not have children if they belong to one of these groups or … is it that they want their child to be ever happy and safe and they worry about the abuse their child might suffer if they belonged to one of these sexual or gender orientations. Finally, can you love them instead of praying for them to change, praying for their well being instead of the blinders to come off.

Now, if we close our blinds and don't make to much contact with the people directly next door to us we don't need to figure out whether they fit one of the categories of people that challenge our view of the world. If we don't ever come in contact with people that differ from our opinion we never need to defend our position. And one of the easiest ways to do all of that is to turn on the TV or YouTube or Facebook and spend time with our carefully cultivated list of people, places and things that agree with us. Many of them may be from the land of make believe but their lives seem very much real and become our ordinary and because we tend to curate the good stuff and post it while leaving out the boring or negative we get a constant stream of media that agrees with us, is always happy and provides lots of fodder for the desire mills inside of us. Ah, how well Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram can stir up the demon of covetousness. And how do we ever get our feet back in reality where we are to help real people around us to live better, more meaningful lives.

I want to help you with an exercise. First, imagine the person you know whose life best mirrors what you think it means to be Christs like. Second, imagine a person who is most difficult to get along with. Got it the most Christ like person you know and a difficult person you know. With both of them in your head I want you to image how the most Christ like person you know would deal with the most difficult person you know. Yes, how would the Christ like person handle the difficult person. Now, pray for the difficult person, ask God to help them be well, and whole. Now think about that person and how you might approach them next time you see them. Maybe you even know why they are so difficult, is there anything you can do alleviate or help heal that hole in their life. If there is and you help provide for it or even just acknowledge it, you might just find their heart melts and you have a friend for life, with whom you can talk even when you disagree. Occasionally, you might even find they are not as difficulty as you previously knew.

In conclusion I suggest that we learn the skills to know and help our neighbor so that we might fulfill the command of Jesus when he says, “Love your neighbor as Yourself.”

June 17, 2018, 12:00 AM

Notes on commandments 4 to 6

Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.


Given to Adults who were responsible for teaching children not to children. Always good advice. As we see Luther extended it to others, especially the elders of a society.

Not a person promise of long life but the covenant promise that a well run society will last a long time.


The Fourth Commandment: Honor your father and your mother.

What is this? or What does this mean?

We are to fear and love God, so that we neither despise nor anger our parents and others in authority, but instead honor, serve, obey, love, and respect them.



Personage: a word used to talk about the presence of the human being as an individual.

In this case I want you to think about it in the sense that all people deserve respect.

All people are made in the image of God and thus whatever you do to them you do to the image of God. And then

Start with the question, “Do you want others to offer you due respect?” or “Do you want them to treat you in a way that allows you the opportunity to lead your life in a way that you find meaningful?”

Now would you want the same for your spouse, and then your children, and then would you want them to provide you the common decency of not slandering your name in public and of leaving your stuff alone enough that you can use and dispose of it in a way that you find to be good and/or meaningful.

And should we not provide the same to others?



You shall not murder.


The ultimate violation of the personage of the other. What is the thing I can take away that deprives you of every opportunity to be yourself, do what God intended you to do, make choices about the future, etc. It is your very life.


The Fifth Commandment: You shall not murder.

What is this? or What does this mean?

We are to fear and love God, so that we neither endanger nor harm the lives of our neighbors, but instead help and support them in all of life's needs.



You shall not commit adultery.


The second greatest violation of the personage of the other – for the two shall become one.


The Sixth Commandment: You shall not commit adultery.

What is this? or What does this mean?

We are to fear and love God, so that we lead pure and decent lives in word and deed, and each of us loves and honors his or her spouse.


Now as a command given to a culture that at times practiced polygamy, we must remember that this is not about sex with multiple partners, it is about the violation of community. If it had been about sex then fornication or sex among unmarried persons would have been included. It is about the lying and deceiving, It is about rupturing the fabric of the society. It is about the harm done to your neighbor.



You shall not steal.


Still a violation of the personage of the other but instead of directly, indirectly through their stuff.


The Seventh Commandment: You shall not steal.

What is this? or What does this mean?

We are to fear and love God, so that we neither take our neighbors' money or property nor acquire them by using shoddy merchandise or crooked deals, but instead help them to improve and protect their property and income.



You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.


Using the public reputation of the other to be a place of aggression against the personage of the other.


The Eighth Commandment: You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

What is this? or What does this mean?

We are to fear and love God, so that we do not tell lies about our neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations. Instead we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.



Notice the ever tightening funnel that we have in these. Notice the infractions going from large to small but all about the same thing.


Next week we deal with what seems hardly even a problem and that is the question of covetousness.

June 10, 2018, 12:00 AM

Love God

Good morning, Grace and peace to you from our God our creator and Jesus the Christ.

The ten commandments, for many of us here this morning probably brings up the movie of the same title with Charlton Heston, God rest his soul, playing Moses. This movie came out in 1956 and has been replayed thousands if not millions of times. And the I will admit that the story surrounding the Ten Commandments makes for pretty good theater but other than they are on two stone tablets, what do you remember about the actual commandments in the movie? Probably, not much, since they are a glancing blow in the movie. So, let us dig into what they say.

This week we are working on the first part of the commandments. In the coming two weeks we will look at the rest of the commandments. The ones we are looking at today all relate to each other and all relate to our relationship with God.

The first Commandment is You shall have no other God's. Luther writes in response to “What does this mean?” “We are to fear, love, and trust God above all things.” But before we go further I want to ask the question what is a god. Gods are those things that we worship or trust in because we believe they have some control over our world and the outcome of the events of our life. For us in the United States we know that having money or not having money changes our reality. The question is whether you elevate the money itself to the position of having control or if you can leave it as a mechanism of transfer and the trust in the provision remains squarely with the creator of the universe and thus you might also accept other kinds of provision, like in kind donations, if that is how God chose to provide. Another common god these days is the self, most clearly evident in some of our world leaders who think they answer to no higher power than themselves. If our god is the one whom we look to as having some control of our future, destiny and provision and if we see ourselves as the force that makes our destiny happen and leave no space for an outside force to intervene on our behalf, then we have become the god. So, God has one request from the very get go, please leave the controlling of the universe to God, which means not you. How much better for our blood pressure when we can let go of the outcome and simply do the right thing because we know it would please God.

I could spend all day on this sentence of have no other gods and for more information I will simply read to you the directions that follow that one simple sentence, “Do 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.” Exo 20:4-5


Next we read that we are not to make wrongful use of the name of the Lord. If you read the original Hebrew texts of this or things written by devout Jews they often will not contain all the letters if they are writing down the word God. They will put a dash in the middle to replace the o. This is out of respect and because if you have never actually said or written the name of God then you will not have misused the name. Understand that having the name of someone gives you a level of power in their lives. In fact the power to name represents the power over another person. Consider parents get to name their children. God changes the name of Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah when he establishes a covenant with them. Taking the name of the husband represented moving into his care and coming under his control in many cultures and in many places. Even today we introduce ourselves and give our names and based on how much you want the other to be able to find you, you may change how much of your name you tell them. So, names are important as they are a representation of the person.

Luther writes of this command not to take the name of God in vain, “We are to fear and love God, so that we do not curse, swear, practice magic, lie, or deceive using God’s name, but instead use that very name in every time of need to call on, pray to, praise, and give thanks to God.” I like how Luther turns it around and makes it a positive. We are meant to use the name of God so that we can pray, praise and give thanks to. This is all why the habit of some who utilize the acronym OMG is so offensive. This acronym is the antithesis of the intent of this commandment. Instead we should only be using God as an act of prayer, praise or to give thanks.


Let us move on though. The next commandment reads, “Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor 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.” Exo 20:8-11 So, if God is only good for six days a week, how in the world do we think we are good for seven out of seven, unless we are better than God. As many of you know I can be a very busy person with lots of projects happening simultaneously. I like to keep my mind busy and I like to keep my hands busy. Yet, I also very much appreciate the Sabbath question and the fact that when I take a Sabbath day (a day of rest) I am more efficient the rest of the week and often complete more than I would working all seven days.

Luther says of the Sabbath day, “We are to fear and love God, so that we do not despise preaching or God’s word, but instead keep that word holy and gladly hear and learn it.” Certainly it is true that one way to keep the Sabbath and it is traditional is to use this also as the day on which we have our formal worship practices but unless you are in worship all day on the Sabbath that alone is not enough. Worship on the Sabbath is in keeping with the Jewish custom and faith out of which we came. All of that said I want to read to you what the Bible says about labor on the Sabbath a little later in Exodus because worship is about keep it holy but I think it is really about a day off. In Exodus 31, immediately before God give Moses the tablets he reiterates this command and says, “You shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, given in order that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you(make you free from sin). You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you; everyone who profanes it shall be put to death; whoever does any work on it shall be cut off from among the people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore the Israelites shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign forever between me and the people that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day God rested, and was refreshed.” Exo 31:13-17

So, it is pretty clear that the Sabbath was about a time of rest first and foremost and that God was truly serious about our need for the time of rest. That said if we are sitting around and resting what better is there to do that spend time in worship and reading scripture. And yes I took my Sabbath on Thursday because Sunday, while I love what I do, is not the time of rest for me. Thus I would argue if you can not take Sunday for whatever reason, take another day, because Sabbath equals rest not Sunday.

The time has come to wrap it up for this week. We talk about the first of the commandments, I am the Lord your God and you shall have no other God's before me. We talked about the Second commandment, “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of God.” and we looked at the third commandment, the commandment to keep a Sabbath. This is the part Jesus encapsulated as the most important commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your might and all your soul.” The ten commandments are one of three things (with the Lord's prayer and the apostles creed) that Luther thought all Christians needed to know. And so I commend to you Have only one God the Lord our God, keep God's name holy and keep a Sabbath day, a day of rest, as a perpetual remembrance of our creator. Amen.

May 27, 2018, 12:00 AM

The Meaning of Life

This morning we read from Ecclesiastes. This is a most interesting book to me. It sort of reads like the writings of the Buddha. You have an extremely wealth prince who goes out to seek the meaning of life. In the process the prince tries many different options. He tries doing whatever comes to mind, hedonism or the belief that what feels good is the highest good, he tries learning, he tries gluttony or consuming to excess, he tries all sorts and manners of ways to give meaning to life. And from all of that we get this chapter we read today as a conclusion.

Before we get into the reading though I want to commend the reading of this whole book to especially; For those of us living in a materialist culture that often tells us to live via hedonism or maybe simply that we must need more than whatever it is we already have, For a people living in this society and who need a way to answer no to the Memorial Day sales that promise you will save tons of money by getting 65% off something you would not have otherwise purchased, For those of us trying to live modestly in a society that says if you only manage to curate the correct set of things and situations, For us we have a book by someone who sought the meaning of life through the ways of this world, which therefore has some pretty direct correlations.

We did not read it today but one of those moments where this book shares an insight in short form it reads, “There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in their work.” What a novel concept to our society, which is always trying to find ways to work less and in which often are heard complaints about the work we need to do. In this book we learn that much of life is about eating and drinking and working and so we should try to find enjoyment in these things, which consume much of our time. It goes on to say, “This also, I saw, is from the hand of God; for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases God is given wisdom and knowledge and joy; but to the sinner is given the work of gathering and heaping, only to give to one who pleases God.” Ecc 2:24-26 and so we learn what we already know in our hearts that those who can be satisfied with the things they have gotten often get more without much work and those who constantly only seek more, find it given to others. And yet often the world around us would mimic the words Madonna wrote for the song More in Dick Tracy where after listing all of the things she had accumulated she sings, “More is better than nothing, true - But nothing's better than more, more, more.”

I will note that in other more serious place Madonna has written about the frivolity of believing that if you have all the correct things that you will be happy. But let us return to the text we started with this morning, the final chapter of Ecclesiastes. This book closes in an interesting way. It has four epilogues. The first is in chapter 8 and contains the refrain found throughout the book, “Vanity of Vanities, all is Vanity.” Vanity is an old translation of the Hebrew word Hebel, which translates today better maybe as breath or vapor and thus refers to the fleeting and perishable nature of the things of life and life itself. So this epilogue which is the repetition of a refrain throughout the text points to the fleeting and perishable nature of all that this life presents us and all the things we strive hard to get and achieve. It sort of mirrors where Jesus talks about the one who works hard and saves only to die and see it all given to the fool. And thus I think, “Vanity of Vanities, all is vanity” works in the sense that vanity is something ephemeral and not permanent and then it is in that context that we look at the earlier suggestion that we should find enjoyment in the things we eat and drink and in the work we do, because that is real, what we have today in front of us is all that is assured and so find the joy in it.

The two epilogues found in chapters 9-12 simply describe the book that you have just read, while mirroring the vanity question as it questions the value of seeing all that you say or think written down when that too can go away. But then we get this final epilogue and it is the beginning of the series we are going to follow over the next few weeks.

Our text today closes with the following words, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.” Ecc 12:13-14 From this we get the thought that all things are seen by God. There is nothing hidden from God and all things will be judged by God. We as Christians bear an advantage, in that all of the things we have done, which are counter to the will of God, are as we say, “Covered by the blood of the lamb.” This is a nice neat way of saying that we serve under this notion of Grace, Grace being the receipt of something we did not deserve, and in this case what we received even without deserving it or doing all the right things is the forgiveness of those things we have done which are sins. So we get to  read this text in light of our Christian faith but we also have to read all of the parts from people like Luther and Bonhoeffer that suggest strongly that the correct response to having received this Grace is to want to and attempt to do things the way God would have and want them to be. In other words our grateful response to the gift of Grace is to lead a life in keeping with God's will and way and we have a glimpse of that today.

The teacher is suggesting to us that all of what we have done will be accounted for on that day of judgment, even those things we thought no one else would no about. This is true we find out for the bad things we did, which will come to light and for the good things we have done in secret, those to shall be brought to the light and counted in the balances. In some ways the author is suggesting that we not bother to be secretive about all that we do. So what would the author have us to do, “Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone.” And we are going to be talking about what it means to fear God and keep the commandments over the next few weeks. We are going to spend time covering the ten commandments, one of the very few parts of the Old Testament that Jesus did not change but commended to us in their whole. Yes we are going to spend time talking about what it means to keep the commandments and in so doing also talk about what it means to fear God.

So let us wrap up this morning with the following. The best we have in life is to find some enjoyment in the things we eat and drink and in the work we do because everything is like vapor in that it is ultimately perishable and passing, no matter how much we accumulate and plan for the future it can all go away tomorrow. So go forth from here this morning keeping the commandments and enjoying this very day, the day that the Lord has made.

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