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Sunday 11 a.m. Eucharist
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Thursday 5:15 p.m. Evensong
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Sunday, August 11
Farewell to My Daughter, Keep Your Light Shining
Preacher: The Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm C. Young
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Lk. 12).
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Farewell to My Daughter, Keep Your Light Shining
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Lk. 12).

Keep your light shining. I remember it as if it were yesterday. We used to live across the street from one of the last farms in Santa Clara County. We called it the Pumpkin Patch and when we heard that developers would be putting in a subdivision the next summer, my daughter and I decided to spend the day there together. She was just about to turn six.

We brought camping chairs, art supplies, our journals and a camera. We sat there in the early spring sunshine in a massive field of yellow mustard flowers with an old rundown barn in the background. Time seemed to just stand still. I have a few pictures of her wearing a black and white striped shirt. She is just shining with such inner light and smiling at me behind the camera. It felt precious because even then I knew that this moment wouldn’t last forever. This week for the first time Melia is moving away from home to attend college on the East Coast.

For eighteen years she has heard me preach and now its time for her to hear from someone else for a while. This morning I want to talk about what it means to follow Jesus as we make our own way in the world. I have three sections on idols, obedience and love.

1. Idols. David Foster Wallace begins his 2005 graduation speech with a story about two young fish. An old fish swims by and says, “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” They go on for a little and then one says to the other, “what the heck is water?” The idea of course is that we fail to notice much of what surrounds us. In this way we never see what is most real.

He goes on to say that it is, “weird but true that there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshiping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what we will worship.” He points out that a compelling reason for worshiping some form of God is that, “pretty much everything else you worship will eat you alive.”

“If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap the real meaning in life, you will never have enough… Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you… Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.”

You do not have to be with someone for a very long time before you recognize what it is that they worship. The sixteenth century theologian John Calvin said that, “the human mind is a factory of idols.”

For Wallace what makes this way of living so terrible is not that it is immoral or sinful or even that it causes us so much unhappiness but because it is unconscious or what you might call water. He calls this our “default setting.” The real world does not discourage you from operating on these default settings. In fact, it hums along fueled by fear, anger, craving, frustration and worship of self. Our culture has harnessed these forces and the result has been a certain kind of wealth and freedom (along with inequality and poverty of spirit). One cost though is a terrible isolation as we are in Wallace’s words, “the lords of our own tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of creation.”

Jesus says the same thing in a different way when he says, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” For him the saddest thing about this is that God longs to be with us. Or in Jesus’ language, “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk. 12). Following Jesus means stepping out of our isolation and worshiping the real God.

2. Obedience. On Monday I had lunch with a friend to talk about his midlife crisis. He may be one of the most intelligent people in my life and he had done fascinating research on how people go through major life transitions. He told me that social scientists had studied the age at which people are at their best for various activities, the time before they begin to decline.

It turns out that at age 7 we are at our best for acquiring new languages. After that, as they say, it’s all downhill. At 18 our brains process information the best. At 23 we are at our best for remembering new names. At 25 we are at peak muscle strength. Most Nobel Prizewinning discoveries happen to people when they are 38 or 39. A man’s salary peaks at age 48. These figures may seem depressing to some of us but the list goes on.

At age 51 we are at our best in understanding people’s emotions. At 69 our life satisfaction peaks. At age 71 we have the best vocabulary. At age 74 we feel the greatest amount of happiness with our bodies. At age 82 we peak in overall wellbeing.

My point is that life is always changing. We are constantly losing something and often gaining something that we have not yet learned to appreciate. Our society doesn’t recognize the value of knowing our limits. Christopher DeMuth in a recent Wall Street Journal article writes that, “Today’s recipe for success and happiness is not to manage within limits and accommodate constraints, but to keep your options open.”

The theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968) writes that what sets Christians apart from some others is that we are not trying to be more than what we are. We don’t always need to be the star of the show. We are not trying to be god. He says, “Of all creatures the Christian is the one which is not merely a creature, but actually says Yes to being a creature.”

This means that we have God as our Lord, “an almighty Companion, who embraces [our] whole being.” Barth goes on to say that, “all the virtue and activity, the joy and worth of a Christian begins with this simple fact.” Because through Jesus we experience God as our Father, “we see what the others do not see.” We are able to be with other people and all of creation in a different way because we follow God. Everything does not depend on us but on the one who leads us. We can let God be God.

3. Love. This brings me to my last point. Following Jesus means that we do not have an abstract or philosophical picture of God. Our faith is practical and concrete. Jesus in his dedication to following God, in his humiliation and abandonment, but also in the way God lifted him up and honored him – this reveals the love that lies at the center of all being. God loves us too much merely to leave us to our own devices.

Warren Kozak’s twenty-one year old daughter asked him if at age 68 he had achieved his life goals. What he realized was that as a young person he could never have imagined his greatest accomplishments. That was because when he was younger he only had in mind professional goals. Looking back at his life he realized that what he was most proud of was his support for his wife during her fatal illness, being a good husband and father, being a loyal friend, living honestly, taking responsibility for the greater community.

In short what he realized was that love is the reason we are here. And because of this love and faithfulness is what we find most rewarding. Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) was a legendary teacher at my seminary for years before I got there. He used to talk about two interior voices. One said, “Henri, be sure you make it on your own. Be sure you become an independent person. Be sure I can be proud of you; and another voice saying, Henri, whatever you are going to do, even if you don’t do anything very interesting in the eyes of the world, be sure you stay close to the heart of Jesus, be sure you stay close to the love of God.”

Nouwen goes on, “You are here for just a short time for twenty, forty, sixty or eighty years – to discover and believe that you are a beloved child of God… Life is just a short opportunity for you during a few years to say to God: ‘I love you too.'”

Yesterday Heidi, Melia and I had a picnic lunch in a circle of ancient redwood trees. On our way back to the city the Maggie Rogers song “Dog Years” was playing on the radio with its refrain, “We will be alright.” Suddenly it felt like this short trip was really a symbol of our whole life together as a family.

Coming into the Robin Williams tunnel for so long you can only see the light on the most beautiful hill. And it seemed so perfect that just that feature of the landscape was enough. And as you start to emerge at first you see the south tower of the Golden Gate Bridge and it is so amazing you want to hold on to it forever. Then the nearer, impossibly larger, more dramatic north tower appears and you can’t imagine anything better. But then you emerge to see the whole city, the magnificent bridges, the Bay, mountains and sky.

I realized that is what our life is. We may love the comforts of the narrow scope of our past like that single green hill but God longs to give us the kingdom, something far more vast and beautiful.

I don’t want it to end. How is the water? Always remember that everyone has to worship something. In Jesus we say Yes to our limits not as restrictions but as the boundary of the life in which God walks with us. Cultivate your relationship with Jesus and the church that tries to follow him because that is how you will see the love that lies at the center of all things.

And dear ones always keep your light shining.

Sunday, July 28
Sunday 11 a.m. Sermon
Preacher: The Rev. Canon Jude Harmon
Sermon from Sunday's 11 a.m. Eucharist
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Sermons from the last six months are available below. You can also listen to our sermons as a podcast, Sermons from Grace, wherever you get your podcasts!

 

Wednesday, June 26
Sister Act Mass Sermon
Preacher: Brandan Robertson
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Sunday, June 23
Sunday 11 a.m. Sermon
Preacher: The Rev. Canon Jude Harmon
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Sunday, June 16
Trinity Sunday Sermon
Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Ellen Clark-King
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Today is Trinity Sunday, the day of the year when we dive deep into the most beautiful mystery of the heart of God. It’s a day that might sound as if it’s about obscure theology, most likely expressed in pretentiously incomprehensible Greek, but it’s actually a day that’s at the heart of what it means to be human. It’s also a day that draws me to fall in love again and again with God. For today we celebrate the dance of never-ending divine love, the continuous birth of never-ending beauty, today we listen again for the song of eternal creative joy.

Here is my favourite ever quote about the Trinity, from a 14th century German mystic Meister Eckhart. He wrote:
‘Do you want to know what goes on in the heart of the Trinity?
I’ll tell you.
At the heart of the Trinity
The Father laughs, and gives birth to the Son.
The Son then laughs back at the Father,
And gives birth to the Spirit.
Then the whole Trinity laughs,
And gives birth to us.’
Hold that in the centre of your being – that laughter and birth and relationship are at the heart of God and at the heart of how you were created. Remember that you are formed by the shared joyful laughter that echoes at the heart of God.

So I am a big fan of the doctrine of the Trinity. But not everyone feels the same way, especially those people who have a preference for down to earth action over hifalutin doctrine. They, you, may feel more inclined to agree with another German, the philosopher Immanuel Kant, who said: ‘From the doctrine of the Trinity, taken literally, nothing whatsoever can be gained for practical purposes’. But I believe Kant was wrong – that the doctrine of the Trinity isn’t just for those of us with our heads in the clouds but for those of us with our feet firmly on the ground too.

For what we see in God tells us something profound about who we are, as well as about who God is. We are the embodied image of God – each human being is this individually while the Church is this in community. When we ask ourselves who we should be as individuals, how we should be together, what our purpose and mission is all about, then we look to the one whose image we bear. To look to anything smaller is to short change our humanity.

And I think the most important thing we see in the Trinity is relationship and interconnection. Like all the monotheistic religions Christianity is very clear that there is only one God, no pantheon of divinities but one divine ground of all that is. There are no divine brothers, like Thor and Loki, constantly competing with each other, no divine marriages in which Zeus and Hera take out their frustrations on the human world. But, in Christianity that oneness is qualified – God’s very being is threefold, is relationship, is interconnection.

This is what creation sprang from. An overflowing of the love that was already present in the heart of God. An overspill of the delight that danced between the three persons of God – the Source of all being, the divine word, the eternal spirit; Creator, Wisdom, Breath; Mother, Daughter, Spirit; Father, Son and Holy Ghost. All different imperfect incomplete ways that we try to name that the heart of God is never passive, never static, never not creating, never not in relationship.

But I can hear Kant whispering in my ear – all very fine but this still isn’t exactly practical. How does believing that the heart of all reality is a trinity make any darn difference to how I spend my day, how I spend this one life I’ve been given to live on earth? And it’s a fair question.

And I want to answer this with a life rather than a theory. My uncle Bernard was in the Royal Air Force during the second world war. He flew in the bombers that left England at night to rain down destruction on the lands controlled by the Nazis. He was a teenager. He wrote to his favourite sister, my mother, about his training and his fears. But the fears he wrote about were not for his own life, nor even for his friends, though they all knew their life expectancy was terrifyingly short. Instead he wrote of his fears of what the war might make him become, of what he had to do, of the German lives he might cut short. Bernard’s plane was shot down over the channel in June 1941 when he was 19 and he died saving the lives of two others by putting them in the one fully operational life-raft.

Bernard was a young man of bone deep Trinitarian faith, truly formed by his understanding that the heart of reality, the heart of God, is relational. He feared losing that part of himself more than he feared death. He knew that we are called to be what we see in God – interconnected, rejoicing in relationship, overflowing with love even to our enemies. And that we are called to do what that directs us to – act out of love, for peace, in mutual respect – delighting in difference not fearing it. Being that love in action in the world we live in.

Belief in the Trinity does not make us perfect, or mean that we will live a perfect life. Bernard did bomb Germany, and probably ended innocent lives in the process. But it should always mean that, like him, we live examined lives, lives that are aimed at a purpose beyond our own material well-being, lives that are fully aware of our interconnectedness with others. To claim belief in the Trinitarian God and not to act like this is immorally hypocritical and a perversion of Christian faith.

This is what makes me so mad about some of the public faces of Christianity. That they can claim to love the God who is always in relationship, who rejoices in this inhabited world and delights in the human race, and yet show such disdain for other humans and for this planet. Those who condemn their siblings for their sexuality or their gender expression, those who are deaf to the cries of children held at detention centres, those who believe in white supremacy – these are not followers of the Triune God of love however much they claim the title Christian.

Those who love the God described as Father, Son and Holy Spirit must value in deed as well as in word the loving relationship that this Trinity reveals. This is the God who is beyond everything that can be known and said – utterly, mind-blowingly transcendent. This is the true and living God who walks beside her beloved every day, present in all those who share our journey. This is the God who breathes in and through us and all creation and who is embodied in our innermost being. This is the Triune God whose joyous laughter rings through the universe and who calls all to dance with her to the music of peace, justice and love.

Sunday, June 9
What Is The Holy Spirit?
Preacher: The Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm C. Young
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What Is the Holy Spirit?
“And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind…” (Acts 2).

1. On February 18, 1866 the Reverend Mr. George Whipple arrived by ship at Ma’alaea Harbor on the Island of Maui. No one was there to meet the boat so his family walked seven miles to the other side of the island to seek out the people who had invited them.

Whipple traveled from Faribault, Minnesota to establish the first Episcopal Church on the island. He and his wife Mary brought their adopted Native American daughter Mokomanic.

The tribe had branded her with stripes on her arm so that she would never forget where she came from. These scars became for the family a kind of passport that helped them travel through Indian Territory safely. Mokomanic played the organ in the fledgling Church of the Good Shepherd. A legend even has it that her husband gave the land that the church sits on.

Every time I walk through those church doors I feel the power of the Holy Spirit. I think of this young woman and what it must have felt like to travel so far through such totally different worlds. She didn’t have much control of her own life but the spirit worked through her. God’s spirit can give us strength too. Mokomanic is my wife Heidi’s great, great grandmother.

2. Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Spirit. The disciples were gathered together and a sound like the rush of a violent wind filled the house. What looked like tongues of fire appeared above their heads. Then they were filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak in other languages.

Two sorts of people heard them. The first group was amazed and astonished. They marveled that people who seemed so unconnected to them could speak in their mother tongue. Trevor Noah writes about this in his autobiography. He believes that language is a far more powerful bond than even our race. Noah learned many languages as he grew up in South Africa.

He remembers shopping with his aunt when the Afrikaans-speaking store-owner said to the security guard, “Follow those two in case they start robbing me.” Without batting an eye and in perfect Afrikaans the aunt replied, “You should have told him to follow us customers in case we need some help.” The shopkeeper apologized.

Noah remembers another time when he was walking a dark street late and night and some teenagers were giving each other instructions in Zulu about how they would rob him. Rather than running, he turned around and said, “Hey next time you want to mug someone why don’t you invite me to join in too?” They laughed it off and left him alone.

This is not just about language, it is about connection. It is a miracle when any person really understands another. And yet encountering another is at the very heart of our humanity.

The second group that heard the disciples couldn’t believe it. They saw the energy and the passion and mistook it for drunkenness. Isn’t it extraordinary that this moment which seemed so powerful to some people was utterly lost on the others who were there? Isn’t it amazing that those moments of holiness that mean so much to us can be completely dismissed by people around us?

3. The theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968) wrote a massive kind of systematic theology. His Church Dogmatics is six million words long in twelve thick volumes with tiny print with parts in Latin, Greek, Hebrew and French. It was supposed to be five parts (The Word of God, God, Creation, Reconciliation, Redemption) but he died before he could start the last one.

In the third volume on Creation Barth gives his readers what he calls a theological anthropology. This is a picture of what a human being is. For him we are always close to being human and near to being inhuman. We are fully human when we really and openly encounter another person.

The first thing he writes about being human is how important it is for us to really look each other in the eye (250ff). We need to see in such a way that we allow ourselves to really be visible. It means not hiding ourselves. It is hard to be open with other people but it is essential for our humanity.

Second, to really be human we need to listen to each other, to genuinely hear what others are saying to us even when it is difficult (252ff). This means not being defensive especially with people who are different from us. It means reaching beyond barriers of race, gender, sexuality, age, nationality, etc. We always have a choice: we can use words to avoid others or we be open, to glide on the Holy Spirit and let it carry us to new places. This involves really saying who we are too.

Barth suggests that the third part of being human may be why we have so much trouble with the first two (260). We do not look each other in the eye, we do not open ourselves through speech because we do not want to give assistance. But this assistance is essential to our humanity. We are human when we help and when we allow ourselves to be helped.

But all this is not enough to understand our humanity. Seeing each other, listening and speaking openly, helping – is not enough. We need one more thing. For Barth we are human when we do these things gladly (265ff). We are most human when we really belong to each other in this way.

For Barth we are body and soul – both are essential, in his words neither diminishes the other (338). We are a body in our connection to the material world. Our soul describes our connection to invisible reality (351-54).

Soul and spirit are not the same thing. We are always soul but we have an experience of the spirit coming and going in our lives. Barth writes, “Spirit is… the operation of God upon… creation” (356). Spirit is how we understand the reality of our humanity. IT makes it possible to become more fully human. Spirit guides and strengthens us to see, hear, help and to do this with joy.

This evening I feel a little like a stranger tossed up by the ocean. On Friday at dawn I was surfing an east swell on the northshore of Maui and now I suddenly find myself int his sacred place. I came back because I knew that God’s spirit would be in this place and I couldn’t miss it.

Yesterday we ordained Peggy Lo as a transitional deacon. She learned about Christ right here. Her love of Jesus has been guiding her since. In August she will go to be a leader at the Church of St. Chrystostom in Chicago. Today is the first day she is serving as an ordained person.

We also ordained Anna Rossi as a priest yesterday. Tonight we will be the first ones to participate in her celebration of the Eucharist. I remember so well the first time I presided in church on the day after I was ordained. I felt so conscious that I was setting up habits for a whole lifetime.

During the years since then the church has been engaged in tremendous struggles and bitterness especially as we decided what life would be like for our LGBTQ+ clergy and members. But even in the most contentious times it has been an extraordinary joy to be part of this community. Sunday after Sunday we have worshiped with such gladness and I have experienced so much faithfulness and love.

I spoke with my teacher Margaret Miles about this yesterday. She said it reminded her of how Martin Luther used to say that if your heart is filled with joy in your ministry God must be present in it.

Anna and Peggy like Mokomanic and the first disciples you have faced so many obstacles. Your perseverance in your call, your dedication to this task deeply inspires me.

May you be your most open and human selves in every day of your ministry. Never forget where you came from or to whom you really belong. Continue to let the love of Jesus and the joy of the Holy Spirit guide and strengthen you.

Sunday, June 9
Sunday 11 a.m. Sermon
Preacher: The Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus
Sermon from Pentecost and Holy Baptism
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Saturday, June 8
Rivers of Living Water
Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Ellen Clark-King
Ordination Sermon
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There is something very moving about preaching at the ordination of four women 25 years after my own ordination to the priesthood. That was also an all women event, though for a particular reason which – thanks be to God – no longer applies. We were the first women in our diocese to be ordained priests, among the first women in the Church of England. We spent much of the service in fear that someone would stand up and protest, that someone would make our day of joy into their day of anger and misogyny. But everything went its Spirit-blessed way and at the end of the service, which was on the Eve of the feast of Julian of Norwich, balloons were let down from the west doors with ‘All Shall Be Well’ printed on them.

‘All shall be well’ A lovely sentiment but how true does it feel in 2019 San Francisco? Are we able to rest in Julian’s promise of ultimate well-being or are we closer to Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones? There is so much about our world that feels even more daunting than it did 25 years ago. The reality of climate change that we fear may soon reach an unstoppable tipping point. Racism and misogyny being given what seems like a presidential stamp of approval. A world fragmenting into tribal interest groups ready to go to war with one another. And in the midst of that hard reality a Church which sometimes seem to have only the tiniest of flickering candle flames to hold against the darkness.

These four women being ordained today – Kerri, Anna, Peggy and Nikki – are clear that there are no easy answers to this reality. They are choosing their vocation with eyes wide open to the state of the world, and also to the despondency that sometimes exists within the Church. And they do this because they have the courage to dream of a different world, a reimagined church. A world flowing with God’s life-giving Spirit – a watered garden for all God’s creation. A church living out its faith in the God who sings to us in these readings with the promise of new life, new breath, new community. They dare this because they see their own courage and dreaming reflected in each other’s eyes, and in the eyes of all those who have supported them on their journey.

The call they are following is the call to prophecy shared by Ezekiel. The call to see the world as it truly is, to name the reality of dry bones and despair, but not to stop with that reality. To speak into it the life-giving word of God – a word of judgement sometimes but always a word of hope. To allow the word of God to blow away the inner barriers of fear or despair or egotism that separate us from our truest selves. To allow the word of God to blow away the barriers of fear, suspicion and unbridled self-interest that separate us from one another. And, oh yes, to allow the word of God to blow away the barriers of dogmatic fundamentalism that separate us from the truth of the divine.

The ordinands themselves introduced me to a beautiful new way of understanding today’s gospel. They suggested that the promise that ‘out of the believer’s heart will flow rivers of living water’ is an answer to Jesus’ cry on the cross: ‘I thirst’. These four are choosing to make themselves available to God in answer to this cry. They are choosing to be open to the force and wildness of God’s living water. Choosing to let themselves be flooded with a love that knows no boundaries, so that they can respond to Christ’s thirst for love and justice in the world. They are refusing to be defined by drought and scarcity and are making themselves part of joyful – sometimes overwhelming – abundance.

And in case it feels like I am putting too much on these four pairs of shoulders let me be clear that this is not their calling alone. God does not limit responsibility for the well-being of her children and of the planet to those who are ordained – which, frankly, should be a great relief to everyone! God doesn’t even limit it to those who know her in the life and death and resurrection of Christ. All of us human beings created in the image of infinite love are called to find this love within ourselves and offer it to the world. All of us are to be rivers of living water answering Christ and the world’s thirst for loving righteousness. Dream a moment what would that look like. Imagine communities of love, imagine feasting for all, imagine joyful sabbath, imagine flesh on all those dry, dry bones.

God’s dream for all of us is that we may live in her love and make her love known. I could say ‘live in his love and make his love known’. God is not defined by gender – but I want these four women ordinands to truly feel, as well as intellectually understand, that they bear God’s image. That when we cry ‘Abba! Father!’ we can as truly cry ‘Amma! Mother!’. That even though they are serving in a church that is wedded to male language for God they know in their very being that God is not male.

For in answering the call to ordination they are not leaving who they are behind and becoming someone other. They are being called to be more completely the Nikki, Peggy, Anna and Kerri that God created them to be. Their true authentic self is all God wants, and all God’s Spirit needs to work in and through them. Their call is not to perfection, especially not a perfection defined by others, but to love and courage, openness and humility, and a willingness to be served as well as to serve. They are called to look at themselves, as well as at all other people, with eyes that are full of the gentleness and fire of God’s love.

25 years ago I never dreamt that I would be in this pulpit, or even in this city or this country! Life with God is always infinitely more than we could ask or imagine. These four women are beginning a new stage of that life today – called to be themselves, to be living water, to prophecy to the dry places of the world, just as we are also called. May they know God’s blessing and may they be God’s blessing in the church and in the world. Peggy, Kerri, Nikki and Anna God loves you, God delights in you, and God has dreams for you. All of you – God loves you, God delights in you and God has dreams for you. Let us also love and delight in one another and dream great dreams together.

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