PASTOR CHRIS’ SOUL IS BACK!!!- 008

Hey friends!
 
It is good to be back!  Going to start out 2021 with a new focus and attention to sharing my SOUL and engaging in the challenging topics of our time.
 
This week, I preached on “Identity Theft”.  Below, you can find the transcript and some additional thoughts on actions that we can take to reclaim the stolen identity of Christianity.  You can check out the video here:
 

LISTEN TO “HYMN FOR THE 81%”
 

 

Scripture: Luke 4:14-30 (Inclusive Version)

Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and his reputation spread throughout the region. 15 He was teaching in the Galilean synagogues, and all were loud in their praise. 16 Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. Entering the synagogue on the Sabbath, as was his habit, Jesus stood up to do the reading. 17 When the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed him, he unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: 18 “The Spirit of our God is upon me: because the Most High has anointed me to bring Good News to those who are poor. God has sent me to proclaim liberty to those held   captive, recovery of sight to those who are blind, and release to those in prison— 19 to proclaim the year of our God’s favor.” 20 Rolling up the scroll, Jesus gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he said to them, “Today, in your hearing, this scripture passage is fulfilled.” 22 All who were present spoke favorably of him; they marveled at the eloquence of the words on Jesus’ lips. They said, “Surely this isn’t Mary and Joseph’s son!” 23 Jesus said to them, “Undoubtedly you’ll quote me the proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your own country the things we heard you did in Capernaum.’ 24 But the truth is, prophets never gain acceptance in their hometowns. 25 “The                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     truth is, there were many women who were widowed in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens remained closed for three and a half years and a great famine spread over the land. 26 It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but to a woman who had been widowed in Zarephath, near Sidon. 27 Recall, too, that many had leprosy in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one was cured except Naaman the Syrian.” 28 At these words, the whole audience in the synagogue was filled with indignation. 29 They rose up and dragged Jesus out of town, leading him to the brow of the hill on which the city was built, with the intention of hurling him over the edge. 30 But he moved straight through the crowd and walked away.

 

I am sure that some of you have either directly or indirectly, experienced real Identity theft.  I have family members and friends whose identities were stolen and it has created immense amounts of pain, financial struggle, and a real sense of violation.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, in 2019 there were 3.2 million reported cases that involved some type of fraud that compromised someone’s identity.  And of the 23% that actually reported a loss, that 23% totalled 1.2 billion dollars in losses. 

Pretty staggering.  

Friends, we have had an identity theft taking place in our here and now.  It is not one of credit cards and social security numbers, but in a very real and dangerous way, it has happened.  And it has happened to Jesus.  This is not a new event, for it has been happening, sometimes in slow and methodical ways, and sometimes in jarring, visible ways.  We need look no further than the atrocity of the events at the US Capitol, and white supremacist ideology that justifies it’s violence in the name of Christ.

So as we see Jesus receive the Holy Scroll of the prophet Isaiah, unroll it, read the text that says  and proclaim  “The Spirit of our God is upon me: because the Most High has anointed me to bring Good News to those who are poor. God has sent me to proclaim liberty to those held captive, recovery of sight to those who are blind, and release to those in prison 19 to proclaim the year of our God’s favor.

This is the section to be read for the Shabbat that week.  But as he concludes, he does something unimaginable. 

 “Today, in your hearing, this scripture passage is fulfilled.”

In that statement, Jesus is proclaiming that in his reading, it is to happen in that moment.  Good News, the Word of the Divine, is brought, not through the emissaries of Caesar, speaking on his behalf but through a rabbi of Nazareth who grew up down the street.  And it is brought, not to those who made the largest gift to the Temple or political contribution, not to the elite, with golden gilded castles and land, but to the poor.  To do miracles for the blind and the outcast, liberation from harmful leadership, and to say it is the year of God’s favor, Jubilee.  The Jubilee is a biblical concept, but also a real tangible, civic restructuring.  It refers to the redistribution of wealth and liberation of slaves every 50 years.  And Jesus has just proclaimed that this is the time.  Now.  When most imprisoned were because of the challenging of Roman rule, Jesus is claiming all prisoners must be set free.  Jesus is telling all of those that have filled their pockets, their bank accounts, their investments, that this is the season that wealth is redistributed for the sake of the impoverished, and they would have to give up some of their wealth for the sake of all.  

So you can imagine how this goes over with those in power, who have hoarded their wealth, who have told the impoverished to pull themselves by their bootstraps.  At this moment Jesus, is claiming his identity.  And not only that, he is re-establishing the identity of God.  For God’s identity had been stolen, by Caesar and corrupt religious and political leaders, whose singular voice was the only one that the people were to receive as the truth.  And as a result of his challenges, his affront to the collective infrastructure that would break people out of the complacence of neutrality, he is almost thrown off of a cliff (this is metaphorical, as there are no cliffs around Nazareth.)

Ironically, it would be but a mere couple of centuries before the Roman Empire would claim Christianity as it’s official religious banner and so the Empirical position of Christianity and this idea of Christian nationalism began.  For centuries, even millenia, some of the most politically powerful entities have claimed such power in the name of Jesus.  Through violence, genocide, slavery, racism, racial or ethnic supremacy, and all of the atrocities that humanity is capable of have at some point been done not just by someone who claimed to be Christian, but done as an expression of Christianity.  

So, it is fair to ask, “Why would anyone want to be a part of such a movement?”  Even this morning, there are pastors and Christian leaders around the country, at the US Capitol, the MN Capitol, and in their sanctuaries that are calling for violence toward those who are different from them, who they see as less than they, manifestations of the Unholy, and a threat.  When people see a flag that says “Jesus Saves” waving next to a flag that says “F- Your Feelings” next to an image of White Supremacy in the Confederate flag, storming the US Capitol to terrorize, claiming  Jesus is on their side.  When, months before, a legal demonstration for racial justice is removed with tear gas so that the president can stand in front of a church holding up a Christian Bible, and uses obscenities to describe others involved in peaceful demonstration lifting up racial justice and equity, but calls Christian nationalists with guns, bats, and zipties “special people”, what is someone seeking understanding of the Christianity to believe?

Well, you may be saying, well that is a small percentage of the country?  Really?  Is it?  Or you may be saying, “well, people know that is not me.”  How do they know?

If you feel that the identity of Christianity has been stolen, that a Credit Card has been made in Jesus’ name and people are spending in abusive action with the name of Jesus on the receipt, or that the God of Love that you claim in your life and cherish is being represented in horrific and antithetical ways, then let me ask you a question, what are you doing to get that name back?

Perhaps your response is, “Well, I am kind to others and I show the face of Jesus in that way.”  Great, but let me ask you, do others know that is where your kindness comes from?  Some of the kindest people I know on the planet are not Christian.  Christianity does not have the copyright on kindness.  In fact, as we have seen, some of the most visibly unkind actions are done under the mantle of free speech and Christianity.  

Does it matter if other people know you claim Christianity or a relationship with God, or life-modeling based on Jesus’ teaching?   Technically, no.  

Tomorrow we celebrate the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the leader that led this country to a different way of being with regard to race.  Keep in mind, Racial segregation, devaluation of persons of color was legal and endorsed by Christian churches for hundreds of years.  Whiteness adopted Christianity as it’s internal affirmation of it’s supremacy, not just ethnically, but Spiritually.

But Dr. King gave our country a voice and a new course to shift into, a movement that also claimed the voice of Jesus, the Hebrew and Gospel scriptures to claim a truer identity of God.  While Dr. King was not the first, he was a transformational presence that elicited the hate and violence borne of a culture caught in identity theft and seeking to take it back for self-focused arrogance. 

Dr. King was as powerful an orator as ever there has been. His words have marked history.  His approach of nonviolent protest and activism are the models of Jesus manifest.  But Dr. King was not one to shy away from conflict, nor was he one to tell people just what they wanted to hear.  While we, too, dream of a day that children from a Black family and children from a white family will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, there are other words that can be tougher to swallow.

Here these words from the Letters from a Birmingham Jail:

“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice”

“…shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

⁃ Martin Luther King Jr.

More devoted to order than to justice?  Lukewarm racial acceptance more bewildering than outright rejection?

This convicting wisdom calls into my soul in difficult to stomach ways.  But I believe this is wisdom, especially those of us who are White, who are male, who are opposite-gender oriented.  And in terms of our conversation today, claim the Christian faith as part of our identity.  If Jesus is our role model, the guiding presence in our life, then we do more harm by passive adoption with quiet and inactive conviction than those that do it falsely, for in doing so we enable the corruption of the identity.  Whether we be moderate, progressive, “woke”, liberal, conservative, whatever, a passive approach to avoid the uncomfortable allows that which truly harms to manifest, when we could very well quell such harm.  We just choose not to.  And thus our identity is stolen.

Back in Nazareth, Jesus is taking back his identity.  Jesus is recovering the identity of God, and does so through his ministry, and in his pain, suffering, death, and resurrection.  So what does that mean for us, Christians, White Christians, White Male Christians, whose legacy has been one of identity theft, to participate in the restoration of the authentic identity of the Creator, made manifest in Jesus?   

The Rev. Matthew Watly, pastor of   Kingdom Fellowship African Methodist Episcopal church in Silver Spring, Maryland, only 20 miles north of Washington DC, shared a response to the US Capitol riots that, while directed to his predominantly Black community, How should the righteous respond?  

Demand Justice

  • Take the risk of proclaiming the injustice done in all settings 
  • Claim your identity in more than a tweet.  While social media is a global platform, a lot can be said on social media that we dismiss.  It is too easy, too distant, too impersonal.

Full Investigation and Prosecution

  • Hold accountability
  • Demand systems that have adversely favored White communities be utilized to effectively hold to account all of those responsible for the siege, both in word and action.   

Rebuke Constitutional and Biblical Heresy

  • Name the Sin of White Christian nationalism as anathema and at the same time present a different theology, a different image of God, a Jesus with Brown skin,
  • Reclaim the Biblical text.  
  • Instead of passively approaching the violence of January 6 and so many other or distancing ourselves from it, how do we bring a fervent and wave the banner of Jesus over extraordinary and sacrificial love?
  •  a different understanding of the Biblical text that is authentic, relevant, and life-giving, 
  • a different activism that is based not on self-centeredness and religious elitism, but justice, mercy, and humility
  • Choose to center on the voices of the harmed and marginalized.  STEP BACK SHUT UP, LISTEN, AND PROTECT

Remain Righteous   

  • Do not compromise our conviction to the identity of Jesus 
  • Maintain a fierce love that is borne of bringing forth a world with the identity of our Creator at it’s foundation
  • Be sacrificial with privilege.
  • Do not be drawn into hate.

 
.  I end with another well-know quote from Dr. King,

So, here is your challenge.  In all the places that the identity of Christianity has been stolen, all of the hateful division, violence, and devaluation, what will you bring, will you be, will you do, to proclaim the model of Jesus that your love comes from?  How much discomfort, how much privilege, power, and worldly risk are you willing to take to drive out hate, and do so with the love of Christ?

Amen  
 
ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:
 I think that while there are many good literary resources for anti-racism, it is sometimes difficult to fully move the learnings from academic education to life mindset.  While there will always be an external “racism is happening to ‘them’ ” or Christian Nationalism is negatively affecting (fill in the blank group of people) because we identify outside of that context, the mindset shift is that helps me is that this is happening to “us”, not “us” in the usage as that we are the direct victims, but that the Created humanity that is suffering that I am interwoven with supersedes that of my or our physical attributes, and that my internal pain as witness to it is as though I am experiencing it myself.  
 
I think that mindset evokes a different type of active engagement.  AND it also holds us to account that some of the most important people for us to be in dialogue with regarding racism and Christian Nationalism are other White people and other Christians.  So in both cases, I feel it is important for us to be overt and also engaged with our racial and Spiritual peers.  I am often reminded that the sin of Racism is something that White people have to fix in ourselves, individually and collectively.  Conversely, we, as Christians have a responsibility to, in word and action, represent Christianity in all settings as something other than that which is seen in so many of the Nationalist and Fundamentalist movements, as they make a point of being overt and visible much better than we do.
 
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF, AS A WHITE CHRISTIAN:
When you encounter those that may use derogatory inferences or words, or talk about “those people” in Racially or Spiritually homogenous environments that you fit in with, how do you respond?
What are the feelings that are elicited for you?    
Do you ignore it?  Why?
Do you engage it argumentatively?    
Do you challenge with questions?  What are those questions?  
Do you assert yourself into naming that which is harmful, even when those who the harm is seemingly directed at are absent?
What are the risks?
What support do you need to push through those risks?
What does it mean for you to claim your faith, humbly and authentically?
 
 

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SOUL 006- LAMENT…

 

AUDIO VERSION OF THE MESSAGE

 

Say their names:

George Floyd

Ahmaud Arbery

Eric Garner

Philando Castile

Trayvon Martin

The list goes on, and on, and on.

Last week, I planned on sharing just a message from Rev. Otis Moss, pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, who I had the honor of taking a preaching course from in seminary.  The message is entitled “The Cross and the Lynching Tree: A Requiem for Ahmaud Arbery”.  I would strongly encourage you to watch today.CHECK IT OUT HEREIt is the message you probably should want to hear more than what I have to say, and in truth, I probably want to hear it more than anything I have to say.  And yet, in light of the week that has transpired, it became necessary to make sure that I needed to speak to what is happening in our community.  Please check out the video and/or audio of message above.
 
SCRIPTURE:

PSALMS 13: 1-3

1 How long, YHWH? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I wrestle with my anguish, and wallow in despair all day long? How long will my enemy win over me? 3 Look at me! Answer me, YHWH, my God!

PSALMS 22:1-2

1 My God, my God, Why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far away, so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? 2 I cry all day, my God, but you never answer; I call all night long, and sleep deserts me.


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SOUL 005- POWER HOUR

CHECK OUT MY VIDEO LIVE FROM NICOLLET MALL!
 
 
THOUGHTS:
The world is taking steps to reactivate, and, with the expiration of the Stay At Home order in Minnesota, people may be inclined to rush back into life, and seek personal needs, wants , and gratifications that one has felt deprived of.  When we do this, it is easy to forget about how those things can negatively impact others.  
 
Please check out my Facebook post from this past week:
 
“Friends, please consider this, as changes to the MN orders happen over the next few weeks. Please resist the urge to treat it like the last day of school, the first day with your driver’s license, the night of your 21st birthday, etc., where it’s party time to do whatever you want. The changes are trusting the public to use what has been learned and communicated and to utilize the common sense that so many have said that people have.
 
The businesses that are opening are being trusted to be good partners in reducing opportunity for community spread of COVID. In turn, they are trusting that consumers will follow the rules established. They will be implementing strategies to maintain social; distancing and usage of masks, gloves, etc. And if you are in their store, that is private property. They can, and will, expect you to follow their rules. If you do not, they can ask you to leave, and you will have to. That is their right as business owners. And they do so, not just because they have been instructed to by a government entity, they do so, because they want to stay open. And the worst thing for them would be for them to have their working employees get sick or be shown as an epicenter for an outbreak, which may lead to them being shut down again.
 
So, please respect their space and policies, if you truly believe in the urgency of their economic well-being.”
 
 
SCRIPTURE:
What we do has a direct impact on those around us, as we are interwoven as part of a greater community Creation.  Here are some thoughts from Paul in his first letter to the people of Corinth:
 

18 Instead of that, God put all the different parts into one body on purpose. 19 If all the parts were alike, where would the body be? 20 They are, indeed, many different members but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” any more than the head can say to the feet, “I do not need you.” 22 And even those members of the body which seem less important are in fact indispensable. 23 We honor the members we consider less honorable by clothing them with greater care, thus bestowing on the less presentable a propriety 24 which the more presentable do not need. God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to the lowly members, 25 that there may be no dissension in the body, but that all the members may be concerned for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members share its joy.

– 1 Corinthians 12: 18-26

 
 
CHECK OUT “PATIENCE” by Guns and Roses
 


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SOUL 004- PRIVILEGE

WATCH THE VIDEO BLOG ABOVE
 
SCRIPTURE:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Creator.
Matthew 5: 38-45
 
THOUGHTS:
Dear friends who are white,
We have work to do.  There is violence befalling loved ones based on the color of their skin.  This is nothing new.  Far from it.  But it is happening.  And we have the “privilege” of choice.  I say “we”, not as some “enlightened” white person, but as someone who is in the midst of this work, myself.  We, I, have the “privilege” of making choices that others do not.    
 
Option 1- We can live into the “otherness” that this is happening to someone else, that each of these stories are isolated incidents and not part of a greater ongoing problem, or make excuses about why it is not our problem.  And we find some way to qualify or rationalize the devaluing of human life.  
 
Option 2- We can talk a good game about how awful it is, but still keep communities of color at arm’s length. We can even act in ways that are convenient and marginally impactful, but don’t make us feel guilty or defensive.
We can make a big scene about our commitment to social justice that looks good, but is really more about making ourselves feel good and righteous, but lacks real empathy or relationship.
 
 
Or we can choose to commit to a mindset shift in ways that challenge our paradigm.  We can recognize that the power systems that exist today are not that far removed from the segregated systems that were legal, less than a century ago.  And that proximity on the timeline of history means that there continue to be people in our midst that lived and developed their ideologies before the Civil Rights movement, which means they have taught and influenced, consciously or subconsciously, where we are today.  The mindset of “otherness”, or seeing persons of color as “less than” or even “the enemy” are ancient history and affect us still, today.
 
Our privilege is born out of our heritage, and many have rose against it over time.  We can do so, too.  It means committing our time, energy, resources, etc. to the benefit of those who have been victimized and oppressed for racial and ethnic reasons.  We take the time to learn history.  We listen instead of talk, we take on a humble heart and recognize  we have much to learn.  And we break down the walls of otherness and stop playing into generalizations that lead to negative stigmas that justify violence. 
 
Today, on this Mother’s Day, grieve with a raw heart with Wanda Cooper-Jones, mother of Ahmaud Arbery, and remember Mamie Till Bradley, mother of Emmitt Till, a young man whose vile lynching was forced into the light of day by a mother with a commitment to justice, not just for her own child, but for all other children who may be so victimized, gave rise to the Civil Rights Movement and changed the lives of millions.  
 
PRAYER:
God of us all, may we be people of justice, and have the vision of your son, Jesus, that we see all as your Beloved and family members we are called to advocate for in the face of violence and oppression.  Amen
 
RESOURCES:
 
Please listen to the voice of Sterling Brown.  His message is more important than mine, and I invite you into FEELING.  Feel this pain.  Not as someone different, but as a human that grieves the egregious violence and disgusting disregard of the legal system with regard to the Ahmaud Arbery case:
 

Did this live and didn’t think I’d post, but a friend convinced me otherwise. So here it is. #Hewasjustjogging 🕉

Posted by Sterling K. Brown on Friday, May 8, 2020

 
 
 
My videos before and after my run.
 

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SOUL 003- “THE RIPPLE EFFECT”

 
 

Psalm 23

A psalm of David
1 God, you are my shepherd— I want nothing more. 2 You let me lie down in green meadows; you lead me beside still waters: 3 you refresh my soul. You guide me to lush pastures for the sake of your Name. 4 Even if I’m surrounded by shadows of Death, I fear no danger, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff— they give me courage. 5 You spread a table for mein the presence of my enemies, and you anoint my head with oil— my cup overflows! 6 Only goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in your house, Creator god, for days without end.

 

Ripple

Grateful Dead written by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter

If my words did glow

with the gold of sunshine

And my tunes were played

on the harp unstrung

Would you hear my voice

come through the music

Would you hold it near

as it were your own?

 

It’s a hand-me-down,

the thoughts are broken

Perhaps they’re better left unsung

I don’t know, don’t really care

Let there be songs to fill the air

 

Ripple in still water

When there is no pebble tossed

Nor wind to blow

 

Reach out your hand

if your cup be empty

If your cup is full may it be again

 

 

Let it be known

there is a fountain

That was not made by the hands of men

There is a road,

no simple highway

Between the dawn and the dark of night

And if you go

no one may follow

That path is for your steps alone

 

Ripple in still water

When there is no pebble tossed

Nor wind to blow

 

You who choose

to lead must follow

But if you fall

you fall alone

If you should stand

then who’s to guide you?

If I knew the way

I would take you home


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SOUL 002- ON THE TURNING AWAY

Mark 12: 28-31 (inclusive version)
One of the religious scholars who had listened to them debating and had observed how well Jesus had answered them, now came up and put a question to him: “Which is the foremost of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “This is the foremost: ‘Hear, O Israel, God, our God, is one. You must love the Most High God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
 
Click here for Pastor Chris Carr’s Video Devotion
 
 
 

ON THE TURNING AWAY by Pink Floyd

written by David Gilmour and Anthony Moore

 

On the turning away

From the pale and downtrodden

And the words they say

Which we won’t understand

“Don’t accept that what’s happening

Is just a case of others’ suffering

Or you’ll find that you’re joining in

The turning away”

 

It’s a sin that somehow

Light is changing to shadow

And casting it’s shroud

Over all we have known

Unaware how the ranks have grown

Driven on by a heart of stone

We could find that we’re all alone

In the dream of the proud

 

On the wings of the night

As the daytime is stirring

Where the speechless unite

In a silent accord

Using words you will find are strange

And mesmerized as they light the flame

Feel the new wind of change

On the wings of the night

 

No more turning away

From the weak and the weary

No more turning away

From the coldness inside

Just a world that we all must share

It’s not enough just to stand and stare

 

Is it only a dream that there’ll be

No more turning away?


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SOUL 001- SPIRITUAL BENCHES

 
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Creator.

Matthew 5: 38-45

 
Click here for Pastor Chris Carr’s video devotion.

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THE BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!

Posted by Chris Carr on Wednesday, April 29, 2020


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