Sermons and Bulletins


A digital version of this week’s worship bulletin and sermon.

Gathering

PRELUDE

CONGREGATIONAL WELCOME

 

Gathering Song            “Shall We Gather at the River”          red book # 423

Thanksgiving for Baptism

GREETING

KYRIE

PRAYER of the DAY

Word

REVELATION 7:9-17

PSALM 34:1-10, 22             “Taste and See”         red book # 493

1 JOHN 3:1-3

MATTHEW 5:1-12

SERMON                                                                                                       Pastor Chris Halverson

God Bless You

 

 

Here, faced with God’s blessings found in the beatitudes.

Here, remembering those faithful who lived before us, relishing our own saintliness—given to us by Jesus, and looking forward in hope to the countless generations of God’s Children we do not yet know.

Here, baptizing little Nathaniel.

Here, in all these things, I simply wish to say, God bless you.

 

Prayer

 

God bless you, not as the world would, not blessings as we’d like, not as we’d imagine them to be

—not as the world’s siren song has said to us:

Blessed are the vigorous, for they will rule.

Blessed are the comfortable, for they will accrue still more comfort.

Blessed are the proud, for they may take the earth.

Blessed are those filled and slaked with injustices, for they shall overflow.

Blessed are the cruel, mercy is for the weak.

Blessed are the corrupt, for they will see what they want to see.

Blessed are the warmongers, for they will take God’s inheritance.

Blessed are those honored for their injustices, for they will rule.

Blessed are you when people praise you and hide your harassment and say all kinds of good things about you-because you dishonor me. Smile hard at it, you’ve got your reward, just as the false prophets of old were rewarded.

 

May such a blessing never find lodging in your hearts! Instead,

God bless you, that you might know God among us in his humility.

The Blessed One, Jesus came to us through Mary, lowly and young.

Came to us with Mary and Joseph—so poor that they could only afford the sacrifice of pigeons at his circumcision.

Jesus who hungered in the dessert for 40 days.

Jesus whose life was a life of mercy from beginning to end.

Jesus who was not corrupted by either the crowd or the religious leaders.

Jesus who made peace among disciples who deeply disagreed, and called upon us to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile, and even love of enemies.

Jesus who was harassed and harried and eventually killed under false pretenses.

Jesus who relinquished even his life, that we might have life.

Jesus who, as Paul writes somewhere, “emptied himself of Godhood, embraced servanthood, humbled himself to death, even death on a cross.”

May Jesus Christ’s presence, as he is, bless you.

 

God bless you, that when you are struck low, God will raise you up

On the off-chance things are going particularly well in your life right now, it is worth reminding you that in this life there are no guarantees—be you glad and well fed now, be you at peace and without temptation—know that the other foot may drop.

But to you mourning, humiliated, hungry, merciful, and so on—I pray that in the midst of all these things, we might be lifted up,

that we might find healing and wholeness

—redemption itself, through Christ our Lord.

Look back just a few verses, see what Christ is explaining with these blessings… he was mobbed by the diseased, possessed, paralyzed and epileptics—and he healed them.

Those healings—those transformed lives—that’s the Kingdom of God come near! That’s an example of blessing

—that’s what happens when Jesus shows up! When Jesus shows up, you are raised up!

 

God bless you, with eyes to see the lowly and love them as yourself

Just as our Lord raises up the lowly, I pray he gives us eyes and wills to do the same.

That when we see those he has blessed,

the meek and mild, who are disempowered and have lost the energy for life, the humble and humiliated, those seeking seriously for decency and virtue

—when we see them, we might really see them, see them as beloved Children of the Father, and have the will to be a blessing to them!

 

God bless you and continually bring you from death to life!

These blessings, they come from the God who creates—the very act of speaking them, makes them so.

Ours is a God who speaks into chaos and nothing and creates all that is.

Ours is a God who speaks through us with sighs too deep for words.

Ours is a God who, when faced with the murder of his own Son, saw fit to speak life into him and speak our sin out of existence, naming our crime as a sacrifice that saves us

—naming us anew as adopted children of God, renewed for an abundant life, blessed by God!

 

Just so, God bless you Nathanael,

God bless you in this baptism.

This recreation by God.

This calling, that you might see all people and have the will to love them well.

This solid space created for you to experience even suffering in such a way that when you look back at it you may even be able to see God at work.

This way Jesus unites you with him and his humble life, death, and resurrection.

This act in which you reject all the forces of this world that stand against God.

Nathaniel, on this the day of your baptism, may God bless you.

 

May God bless us all…

God bless you.

A+A

 

HYMN of the DAY            “Borning Cry”          red book # 732

BAPTISM of NATHANIEL EAMON ZIESE

PRAYERS of INTERCESSION

PEACE

Meal

OFFERING

OFFERTORY ANTHEM        “O Welcome All You Noble Saints of Old”

GREAT THANKSGIVING

A MOMENT OF THANKFUL REFLECTION

LORD’S PRAYER

COMMUNION SONGS

Also, red book # 632, red book # 414

POST COMMUNION SONG            “Song of Simeon”

Sending

BLESSING

ANNOUNCEMENTS

SENDING SONG               “Soon and Very Soon”           red book # 439

DISMISSAL

POSTLUDE

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A digital version of this week’s worship bulletin and sermon.

Gathering

PRELUDE

CONGREGATIONAL WELCOME

CALL TO WORSHIP:

OPENING WORD:   (John 8:31, 32)

OPENING HYMN            “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”           red book # 504

CONFESSION AND FORGIVENESS

 

 

 

CANTICLE OF PRAISE           “All Glory Be to God on High”          red book # 410

GREETING

PRAYER of the DAY

Word

JEREMIAH 31:31-34

PSALM 46

ROMANS 3:19-28

JOHN 8:31-36

SERMON                                      Pastor Chris Halverson

Reformation 2017

Dan and Claire were married for 8 years, it started out great, but they were drifting apart. Eventually Claire spoke up, “Hey, this isn’t working.” Dan replied, “I’m so glad you said something, I’ve felt that way too.” It took a lot of work and some outside counseling, but things got better.

It had started to go south for Phil when he had an accident on the job and was given more painkillers than he needed. Then he used medication he found in her mother’s medicine cabinet, and he quickly escalated to heroin. His best friends Jason and Jamal sat him down one day, and told him how his dependency on drugs had changed who he was—they intervened, and Phil got into an inpatient rehab place, and afterwards regularly attended NA meetings and, after a few relapses, kept clean.

Patt and Max were driving from South Plainfield to New York City, and things didn’t look quite right, and after a while Max turned to Patt and said, “Hey, Patt, I just saw a sign for Philly… maybe we should turn around.” And they pulled over, checked googlemaps, and turned around.

 

In all these cases it took some courage to say, “This is wrong” and courage, too, to change. To turn around—or to put it in biblical terms, to repent.

Let us pray

 

When I think of repentance—of folk forced to look at their situation and be stimulated by the Spirit to spontaneous acts of re-interpretation of the faith, I think of Jeremiah.

2,700 years ago, the prophet Jeremiah was assessing the destruction of Jerusalem, walking the rubble and ruin of that grand city razed by the Babylonians—his city shattered.

And down from his depths a question arose, “Why?”

“What of the promises between God and us? What of the covenant made between God and the people, made between Moses and God?”

And the horrifying answer came to him, “they broke it! They treated God like a cheated-upon spouse!”

Imagine that moment! Struck there by his surroundings, and by his despair, and by a need to start again—to turn around, to repent.

“Oh, Lord,” it seems he is saying, “There is no way out. We can’t save ourselves, look around at our best, blown to bits and blowing away in the wind and ate by the flames of war!”

And God responds, “I will provide for you a new covenant. An internal promise, one sided and sure, beyond breaking—there will be no separation between you and I this time, because you will know me!”

God turned the people around, and did a new thing with them!

 

When I think of repentance—of folk complacent but called to something more, moved to a higher ground and higher calling, I think of the folk Jesus calls to discipleship in John’s Gospel.

1990 year ago, Jesus calls it like he sees it.

“The truth will set you free.”

Yet these folk with him believe they’ve always been free, smug even with Jesus right there, unable to see where they’d fallen short, unable to see how bound they were.

But Jesus sets before them a Word and a Way—a path to turn onto and follow onward to the Truth and the Freedom found in being a Disciple of Jesus Christ, paved, ultimately, in the unearned adoption into God’s family—reminded that that was Abraham’s origins as well… just some wandering Aramean who God happened to gift with relationship—turning him too toward the promised land, turning Abraham too around, and into the merciful arms of God!

God turned the people around and did a new thing with them!

 

When I think of repentance—when I think of a Repenter par excellence—someone stopped in their tracks and turned 180 degrees around—I think of the Apostle Paul.

1,960 years ago, Paul had a problem.

He’d met the Messiah, and it wasn’t who he expected at all! The blessed one died on a cursed tree! Non-Jews joining Jesus’ earliest followers!

He asked, “How is this possible? Aren’t there clear boundary markers? Isn’t that what makes the world of religion go round? Isn’t that righteousness in a nut shell?”

No—he finds, God is faithful to ALL people! The barriers erected erased and replaced by God’s love found in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God turned the people around and did a new thing with them!

 

When I think of repentance—being convicted and convinced by conscience, following after a new Spiritual insight, wherever it may lead—I think of Luther.

500 years ago, Martin Luther looked back at Scripture and at the Early Church, and looked carefully at the church around him—and was convinced something was wrong!

He looked at the penance system that had calcified onto the church and clung to it like some parasite.

He looked at it in horror, realizing the problem was deeper than the sale of indulgence—get out of purgatory free cards hocked to pay for St. Peter’s Basilica back in Rome.

Luther noted:

-How the penance system was warping not only his faith life, but the collective life of the Church writ large.

-How it seemed designed to obscure the Grace God promises us,

-designed to ignore that we are adopted children of God,

and to pull at people’s hearts in order to make God’s law again an external thing.

 

And to this he wrote up 95 points of debate, beginning:

“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” in Matthew 4:17, he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

And the journey that followed the posting of the 95 theses involved:

sanctifying and splitting,

a Christian re-thinking of sex and celibacy and the spirituality of work,

a popularization of scripture reading and child rearing,

new ways of taking care of the poor among us, engaging with secular power, and finding God where we would least expect God to show up.

God turned the people around and did a new thing with them!

 

And, just as God wasn’t done with folk 2,700 years ago, or 1,900 some years ago, or 500 years ago… I want you to know God continues to calls us to a life of repentance, of turning around, moving from complacency to Christ follower, righteous re-interpretation of the faith, digging down through the layers of our own missteps to recover the grace that is always, already, there!

God is always turning us around and always doing a new thing with us!

A+A

 

HYMN of the DAY          “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”          red book # 631

APOSTLES CREED

PRAYERS of INTERCESSION

PEACE

Meal

OFFERING

OFFERTORY ANTHEM           “The Church’s One Foundation”         red book # 654

GREAT THANKSGIVING

A MOMENT OF THANKFUL REFLECTION

“Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty!”        red book # 413 vs1

LORD’S PRAYER

COMMUNION SONGS          “Lamb of God, Pure and Sinless”           red book # 357

Also, red book # 657, red book # 509

 Sending

BLESSING

ANNOUNCEMENTS

SENDING SONG             “Now Thank We all our God”           red book # 840

DISMISSAL

 

POSTLUDE

A digital version of this week’s worship bulletin.

Gathering

PRELUDE                                             

CONGREGATIONAL WELCOME   

Gathering Song             “O God beyond All Praising”            red book # 880                                

Thanksgiving for BaptISM

GREETING                                                                   

KYRIE                                         

CANTICLE OF PRAISE                                    red book # 167

PRAYER of the DAY

Word

 ISAIAH 45:1-7                                                   

 PSALM 96:1-13                   

1 THESSALONIANS 1:1-10                            

MATTHEW 22:15-22                                             

SERMON                                                             Pastor Chris Halverson

HYMN of the DAY                “God of Grace and God of Glory”              red book # 705                     

APOSTLES CREED  

PRAYERS of INTERCESSION                   

PEACE                                                 

Meal

OFFERING

OFFERTORY ANTHEM                 “Take My Life and Let It Be”

1.      GREAT THANKSGIVING

 

A MOMENT OF THANKFUL REFLECTION

LORD’S PRAYER       

COMMUNION SONGS                          

Also, red book # 461, red book # 474

POST COMMUNION SONG                      “Song of Simeon”

Sending

BLESSING 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

SENDING SONG               “Savior, Again to Your Dear Name”            red book # 534             

DISMISSAL                    

 

POSTLUDE

 

 

A digital version of this week’s worship bulletin.

Gathering

PRELUDE

CONGREGATIONAL WELCOME

Gathering Song           “As We Gather at Your Table”          red book # 522

Thanksgiving for Baptism

GREETING

KYRIE – CHOIR

PRAYER of the DAY

Word

ISAIAH 25:1-9

PSALM 23

PHILIPPIANS 4:1-9

MATTHEW 22:1-14

SERMON                                     Pastor Chris Halverson

HYMN of the DAY                “In Thee Is Gladness”              red book # 867

APOSTLES CREED

PRAYERS of INTERCESSION

PEACE

Meal

OFFERING

OFFERTORY             “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me”            red book # 325

GREAT THANKSGIVING

A MOMENT OF THANKFUL REFLECTION

LORD’S PRAYER

COMMUNION SONGS            “Lamb of God”

Also, red book # 765, red book # 436

POST COMMUNION SONG             “Song of Simeon”

Sending

BLESSING

ANNOUNCEMENTS

SENDING SONG               “Sent Forth by God’s Blessing”              red book # 547

DISMISSAL

POSTLUDE

A digital version of this week’s worship bulletin.

Gathering

PRELUDE

CONGREGATIONAL WELCOME

Gathering Song               “Morning Has Broken”               red book # 556

Thanksgiving for Baptism

GREETING

KYRIE – CHOIR

PRAYER of the DAY

Word

ISAIAH 5:1-7

PSALM              “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”            red book # 257 vs. 1, 5, 7

PHILIPPIANS 3:4b-14

MATTHEW 21:33-46

SERMON                                     Pastor Chris Halverson

Jesus’ Unfinished Parable

 

I’ll say this every time, because I think it is so important… parables are stories told about one thing to make a point about another,

they should never be easily digestible, but instead sit with you for a while, your subconscious working on it, working it into your life

… they are to be chewed on until they chew on you.

Parables often seem simple, but grow and their meaning expands.

Parables, especially the ones Jesus tells, often end with a zinger—a sharp barb to blow away the listeners…

But today, I would suggest that Jesus never gets to the zinger—the flow of the story is interrupted by the force of the Pharisee’s concerns… I would suggest, today’s parable is unfinished… Jesus’ unfinished parable.

Further, I would suggest Jesus’ unfinished parable

  1. parallels Isaiah’s vineyard-song,
  2. is stopped short by the self-condemnation of the religious leaders,
  3. and is ultimately finished in Jesus’ own body.

 

Prayer

 

Jesus’ unfinished parable parallels Isaiah’s vineyard-song.

“Have you heard the one about the landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press, built up a watch-tower…”

 

In my holy Imagination—I figure Peter probably stopped him short, saying, “Oh yes, Jesus, I have heard that one… it’s Isaiah’s parable of the vineyard that produced rotten grapes (or as the NRSV accurately but unhelpfully translates “wild grapes”)…

Then Peter would go on and remind the crowd about that story—how God so lovingly cultivated a relationship with His people–gave the Laws of Moses, acquiesced to anointing David and his line King, went along with his people through thick and thin, provided the prophets as things got worse
… and yet, somehow, for all the pleasant planting…

justice was jilted and produced bloodshed,

the seeds of righteousness yielded cries of horror.

This is about our nation’s relationship with God! Peter would add.

I’d imagine most nations could fit their own decline into a similar model—here in the US our laws and Bill of Rights were planted in order to bring forth the fruits of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

—yet the first amendment has produced unexpected produce

Twitter wars and ugly ugly comments sections

—the second amendment has produced rotten fruit

58 dead and 489 wounded in about 10 minutes.

Indeed, Isaiah speaks of good seed gone rotten.

 

Jesus’ unfinished parable is stopped short by the self-condemnation of the religious leaders

After Peter’s aside, Jesus continues,

“the land was leased and the landlord left, sent a servant to collect what was owed him… this servants were beat, and a second killed, and a third stoned—more and more servants arrived, and more and more often they were treated so badly—their bodied became compost and fertilizer for the tenants’ gardens…

So then, the Landowner sent his son, who the tenants plotted against, and seized, and took from the vineyard, and killed!

“What,” Jesus asked, “will the landowner do to these tenants?”

 

And here’s where things get funny—I’d imagine when I read this today, you all heard the response as coming from Jesus—but in point of fact, the next words are those of the religious leaders, the Pharisees and temple officials, and such…

Their response is: “kill ‘em and take their stuff!”

“Retaliation!”

“Respond to hate with hate!”

 

My dear siblings in Christ—this is not the Kingdom of God that Jesus is preaching…

an eye for an eye—not Jesus!

not turning the other cheek… not Jesus!

In fact, it isn’t even the kind of thing a Pharisee should get behind….

After all, there is the story of the foreigner who came to the Rabbis Shammai and Hillel and ask them to give a gloss of the law—asked for a summary of the Jewish faith during Jesus’ time—while hopping on one foot—so it had to be quick about it.

(To get you a sense on these two religious leader’s perspectives—when asked about telling little white lies, Hillel said “a bride is always the prettiest woman in the world on her wedding day” Shammai responded, “you can’t lie even then, if she’s a pig she’s a pig, and you tell her that to her face.”)

Shammai, true to form, told the foreigner to get out.

Hillel, however hopped there on one leg and said, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor, the rest is commentary.”

 

Yes, that golden rule that reigns across cultures and religions, is ignored by these religious leaders who respond to Jesus.

And by their words, they condemn themselves…. Its like when the prophet Nathen tells King David a story about a vile sheep stealer, King David goes berserk and then is told, “you are that man.”

As these religious leaders have sewn, so now they shall reap.

That which they wished upon others, their words of judgment, are now the length by which they are measured.

 

They lose their authority in that moment, and, at least in Matthew’s eyes, it is picked up by Jesus’ fishermen disciples.

It’s like that dog carrying a bone, who walks to a pond, sees his reflection and thinks it another dog with a bone, is angry at it, and barks, dropping the bone into the water, from which it may not be retrieved.

And Jesus all but drops the rest of his story—leaving the religious leaders with enough rope to hand themselves… the parable is left unfinished.

 

The parable is left unfinished…

But Jesus’ unfinished parable is ultimately finished in Jesus’ own body.

 

Unfinished, at least, in so far as it is a spoken thing, a story pointing to a reality…

but this story Jesus tells is another way

—he embodies it, lives the story in reality, that the story might be told to the whole world.

Have you heard the one about the landowner, who deeply loved his vineyard, poured himself into it, leased it to tenants, sent servants to collect the fruits of his labor… Jeremiah was thrown down a well, Isaiah ridiculed, John beheaded—then God sent his son, Jesus.

The Son was seized, taken outside the walls of Jerusalem—that vineyard, and killed.

But he did not stay dead.

He came and said

“Be Not Afraid.”

He intercedes with the Landowner.

Takes on that miserable death, recommended by the religious leaders, and takes it out of play.

Pays off the lease of that vineyard, with his precious blood.

Bears our pain and our grief.

The son, rejected, bears upon his back a new world.

The son, renews every garden and every vineyard.

The son, works tirelessly to collect sorrow and produces from it all good fruit.

HYMN of the DAY             “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”           red book # 742

APOSTLES CREED

PRAYERS of INTERCESSION

PEACE

Meal

OFFERING

OFFERTORY ANTHEM              “The Building Block”

 

GREAT THANKSGIVING

A MOMENT OF THANKFUL REFLECTION

 

LORD’S PRAYER

COMMUNION SONGS             “Lamb of God”

Also, red book # 379, red book # 511

POST COMMUNION SONG             “Song of Simeon”

Sending

BLESSING

ANNOUNCEMENTS

SENDING SONG           “Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation”           red book # 645

 

DISMISSAL

POSTLUDE

A digital version of this week’s worship bulletin and sermon.

Gathering

PRELUDE

CONGREGATIONAL WELCOME

Gathering Song       “All Creatures, Worship God Most High!”    red book # 835, vs. 1, 2, 6

Thanksgiving for Baptism

GREETING

KYRIE – CHOIR

PRAYER of the DAY

Word

EZELIEL 18:1-4, 25-32

PSALM 25

PHILIPPIANS 2:1-13

MATTHEW 21:23-32

SERMON                                              Pastor Chris Halverson

The Ways of Worship

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi

Rather loosely translated: “the way we worship, is the way we believe, is the way we live.”

Our belief and our very way of being in the world, are shaped by what we do in worship. This may be why most conflicts in church involve the so called “worship wars.”

It is also why some of us are feeling a little tense here at St. Stephen. After 47 years of music done one way by one person, it is now being done a slightly different way, by a different person

—no matter how good it is, and let me tell you it is good

—it is different, and is shaping our life together differently.

We’re in a re-calibration period

if you make this motion with your smartphone (∞) you’ve just recalibrated where up, down, left, and right are for Googlemaps…

so too here in worship we’re figuring out where up, down, left, and right are today—and that’s a big deal, it shapes our way of belief and way of life.

Let us pray,

 

“the way we worship, is the way we believe, is the way we live.”

I bring all of this up today—because we find in Paul’s letter to the Philippians one of the earliest Christian hymns. Paul is describing how the community at Philippi ought to live together (Lex Vivendi)—he’s describing the Christian life as loving, harmonious, Christ seeking—avoiding selfishness and embracing humility, looking out for the best interest of other people—having the mind of Christ!

At which point, Paul has painted himself into a corner—He may have asked himself, “what does that look like in an emotional, experiential—clear, way?”

… and then like a thunder bolt, he bellows forth this Hymn to Christ—a song he assumes everyone in the congregation he is writing to would know, because they’ve used it in worship…

It would be like if I was writing a letter to a community that needs to know they are loved, and I just couldn’t give words to that reality—and I swept into that familiar song, “Jesus loves me this I know.”

 

This song Paul quotes in verses 6-11, sings about Jesus being so deeply in love with the world that he would accept all humiliations, to re-unite God and the Cosmos, the Creator and the Creation.

He gave up his grip on Godhood, so he would have no advantage

Emptied himself of all except humanity, becoming mortal

Showed us true servanthood and humility

Died a death like ours, even execution with criminals.

 

And God lifted him up, and saw fit to offer him favor

Giving him the name at which all knees bow in honor

“Jesus is Lord” the confession on every tongue

With this worship all worlds—top to bottom and everything in between—give Glory to God!

 

And today, as we worship, with critters and pictures of critters here and there, we do so:

Not because it is cute—though it is.

Not because it encourages visitors—though it does.

 

But because it is telling that story, that Jesus loves this world so deeply,

not just those who avoid criminal execution,

not just those of able body or mind who are living well,

not just those who are high and mighty—bold and brash

—no… heaven, earth, even those things below

—all of creation cared for, blessed

—Jesus Christ in the flesh here for ALL of us!

For critters and people, habitation and habitat,

the smallest quark and the largest galaxy, and even all potential universes.

Christ comes to enfold them all, us all, in God’s loving arms.

 

And as we live our lives, let us trust that:

God is among the humble—those unnoticed by the world.

God is there in the midst of death—I know I can’t get those images of grave devastation in Puerto Rico off my mind… God is there in that.

God is dying with the executed, and everyone else as well… Dying for all the world, that all the world might live in God!

 

And as you trust these thing to be true, may God enable you both to will and to work for God’s good pleasure.  

HYMN of the DAY          “All Things Bright and Beautiful”          red book # 767

PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING FOR DECEASED PETS

PET BLESSING

APOSTLES CREED

PRAYERS of INTERCESSION

PEACE

Meal

OFFERING

OFFERTORY ANTHEM              “Make me a Channel of your Peace”

GREAT THANKSGIVING

A MOMENT OF THANKFUL REFLECTION

LORD’S PRAYER

COMMUNION SONGS          “Lamb of God”

Also, red book # 715, red book # 433

Sending

BLESSING

ANNOUNCEMENTS

SENDING SONG              “Let All Things Now Living”             red book # 881

DISMISSAL

POSTLUDE

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