Follow Me, Revisited

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Mcburnett's Musings

Matthew 18:21-35; 25:31-46; 26:17-30

This concept of Follow Me on which I have previously written continues to reverberate in my mind and to dwell in my soul.  This week I had a flashback to the 70’s of my youth when the strains of Day by Day began playing soulfully in my head.

The key phrase in the chorus goes like this:

May I know Thee more clearly,
Love Thee more dearly,
Follow Thee more nearly.

I’m going to explore those concepts here in a minute, but first a little background on the musical from which it arose – Godspell. Curiosity got the best of me so I did a little research on GodspellGodspell is a telling of the parables of Jesus in musical form, most consider it to be based on Matthew’s Gospel.  It first saw the light of day in 1970 on a college campus (Carnegie…

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Looking at the 14th Chapter of The Apostle Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, it picks up, right where the last 13th chapter leaves off (the greatest of these…) Paul says: 

Let love be your highest goal, but also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives…  1 Corinthians 14:1a 

A reminder that Agape/Unconditional Love for God & Others is Always our primary goal (what we are hoping to achieve)…yet we should all strive for special abilities (Gifts) that only the Holy Spirit can provide. Another reason why the Mission Statement of our congregation emphasizes Transformation (God’s part) & Sharing His (Agape) Love. Next we need to consider how is it that we facilitate & use the Spiritual Gifts given to us. Paul in explaining to this church in the consideration of these Spiritual Gifts-He emphasizes: 

especially the gift of prophecy. 1 Corinthians 14:1b 

We have seen in previous books that the gift of prophecy not necessarily what we might think in today’s vernacular (of predicting the future). It would have been understood from  the Greek culture of those who consulted with the Oracle…and brought “the word” back to the people. The early church adopted the same illustration, in our relationship to the one true God. So what does that mean to us in the Christian Church?  I would suggest that as Paul explained to the church in Rome how to more specifically use this particular gift. He tells them: 

God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you.  Romans 12:6 

The Greek term means—”Unhide”  God’s truth-through his Word revealed to you. Requiring 1st that that you have a relationship with Him. This is a large part of what we do in Sharing God’s Love. We also see Paul explaining earlier in this  letter to the Corinthian Church the significance of this particular gift. He Writes: 

Now all of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it. Here is a list of some of the members that God has placed in the body of Christ: first are apostles, second are prophets…  1 Corinthians 12:27-28 

We remember-The Apostles (those sent out) & then The Prophets are those who are speaking for God (within the community of believers). We each have a sense of this by listening to God. Through prayer & relationship—primarily by & thru His Word. Biblically literate, prayerful, messengers are an important part of the body of believers. Some faith traditions believe this gift can only be realized by the Pastor. It is rather with us & me that I work (as a pastor) to equip each of you (community of believers) to accomplish this very thing—Remembering…each of you is necessary to the Body. Then Paul continues in comparing this gift to that of Tongues: 

For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.  1 Corinthians 14:2 

Two things come to mind when I consider this passage. First, I am reminded of our daughter Becky as a teenager leaving messages on our home answering machine…(It was so fast and indistinguishable had to listen to message 3-4 times). Secondly, there are two types of tongues mentioned in scripture. A Prayer Language . It is often experienced by those who have never prayed/dialoged with God & then encounter the Holy Spirit (I have known many in this category). Then there are those who experience “prophetic utterances” (with interpretation required). The term for Tongues in the Greek work Glossa and generally used in the first instance (Prayer Language). A great example of this was at the conversion experience of the first Gentile (Cornelius) in Acts. Luke records: 

The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles, too. And there could be no doubt about it, for they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.  Acts 10:45-46 

This has been my experience with new Christians. Overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit. A way of praising God for setting them free-transforming their lives. Have you ever been so in Awe of God to be left Speechless? Paul instead insists to the Corinthians:


But one who prophesies is helping others grow in the Lord, encouraging and comforting them.  1 Corinthians 14:3 

Paul is pointing out that the gift of Tongues is for individual believers. However, the gift of Prophecy (as described in the Bible) is one that helps other grow. In a sense that is what I do on Sunday mornings. It is also what we do for each other in Sunday School & Wednesday Nights. We share what God has revealed to us through his Word—(not just our opinion or what we have heard from others). Even at times God can gives us A Word to Comfort others. Paul tells the Ephesian church that one of the key ways we share this Good News is through this gift that both  inviting & welcoming: 

You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household,  built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.   Ephesians 2:19-20 

Apostles & Prophets. Those going out..and those coming in—to share the Good News. That all are Loved “unconditionally” & accepted into the body. These two Gifts are the Foundation—what we are about. Transforming Our World by Sharing God’s Love. Paul uses a helpful illustration to emphasize his point concerning the gifts of Tongues & Prophecy. He continues by saying: 

Even musical instruments like the flute or the harp, though they are lifeless, are examples of the need for speaking in plain language. For no one will recognize the melody unless the notes are played clearly.    1 Corinthians 14:7 

I know from experience (as an instrumentalist) how important coordinating both the pitch & rhythm can be.  Speaking tongues (Prayer Language) not a problem. However,  in a biblical sense of Prophecy (speaking for God), we need to be In tune-with God’s Word. The Apostle Peter says in his epistle:  

You must understand that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophets themselves or because they wanted to prophesy. It was the Holy Spirit who moved the prophets to speak from God.  2 Peter 1:20 

Even the Prophets we find in the Hebrew Bible were filled with God’s Spirit to speak His truth NOT out of their own understanding or opinion. Paul uses yet another illustration to help these early believers: 

It’s the same for you. If you talk to people in a language they don’t understand, how will they know what you mean? You might as well be talking to an empty room.    1 Corinthians 14:9 

Here I believe Paul is going farther than just Tongues. There are so many words in what I would call “Christian-ese.” For those of us who grew up in the church these words/phrases are second nature/instinctive: Redeemed, Delivered, Saved, Washed in the Blood of The Lamb. When we consider the outside world (particularly young people) and how they see us as the Church. We need to heed Paul’s advice.  Paul is telling the Corinthians (and us) if we can’t speak their language-like speaking to an Empty Room. Finally Paul tells them: 

Since you are so eager to have spiritual gifts, ask God for those that will be of real help to the whole  church.   1 Corinthians 14:12 

How can we be a Real Help to The Church-utilizing the Gifts God has given us. Powerfully provided by the Holy Spirit…Put another way..Paul tells the Ephesian Church: 

He gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.   Ephesians 4:11-12 

Equipping God’s People…To Do His Work—To Build Up the Church—By the Grace of God. There’s A Place for You…All of You—For His Glory


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When I reflect on the introductory chapter of The Apostle Paul to the Ephesian Church I see a pastor wanting to let these people/the church know and remember —Why (For This Reason)…we are a Church…that we ALL have been called and then he expresses the gratitude he has for all of them.

Paul tells this Ephesian Church, whom he known better than any of the places he had ministered to (spending over three years in ministry there):

Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for Christians everywhere…   Ephesians 1:15

The church in Ephesus was emulating the Greatest Commandment (Love God –through strong faith) and love others. Strong Faith is the same word often translated Trust (living out your faith every day). This is the challenge for us all. What we do in our community…in our places of work…in our families. Paul goes on to say:

And now you also have heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit.   Ephesians 1:13

We have heard The Truth…The Good News (The Gospel). The Good News that actually supersedes the Bad News-which is…our best days are ahead of us. When we hear the Bad News -TV News broadcast, Newspaper articles, Email, Social Media-There is still the Good News of Christ-No matter what (Paul tells us, in the end)-God Saves us. Paul tells them:

I have never stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly. Ephesians 1:16

Never stop thanking God for you. I have to admit when I visit with my fellow clergy, I often do the same. Just as a father, I am proud of my kids. As a pastor, I never stop thanking God for the congregation I serve for their willingness  to know Jesus and to follow him. Paul also tells them:

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  Ephesians 1:17

Remembering a summer in Massachusetts as a kid on a family vacation we went off the coast to a small island. My cousin and I met a professor from Harvard (as a kid wasn’t impressed)-who taught Astronomy. He had a telescope and introduced us to a whole new perspective of God’s creation. This is what the Holy Spirit does for us and has done for many of you. It gives you a Spirit of Wisdom & Revelation-to see God’s Glory. In addition Paul tells them:

I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the wonderful future he has promised to those he called.   Ephesians 1:18

Hearts—Flooded with Light. The very core of who we are. We have a choice. The default is Darkness-we have to choose to let the light in. Paul says if we do…we will be able to understand-the Wonderful Future-we are promised. Another translation is our Inheritance…the Good News with this Inheritance (The Kingdom), it is available “now” as a free gift from God…Paul wants the Ephesians and us to Know & Understand. Paul goes on to say:

I pray that you will begin to understand the incredible greatness of his power for us who believe him.   Ephesians 1:19 

Understand the power of (Greek-Dunamis)-Dynamite-That is available to us. Even when we are having one of “Those Days” we have the power to do incredible things through the Power of The Holy Spirit. The Community Worship Service we held following the Hurricane Ike where we came together as a faith community. We had no electricity-yet we had plenty of Power. The Paul states that:

God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,  far above all rule and authority and power and dominion.  Ephesians 1:20-21 

The same power that raised Christ from the Dead…is the same power that lifts us up…gives us the ability to do things and overcome obstacles we could never do on our own. It is also the power that places Jesus in place that is First (Rule), Precedent (Authority), Lord- King of Kings (Dominion). Paul wanting to be clear says:

God has put all things under the authority of Christ, and he gave him this authority for the benefit of the church.  Ephesians 1:22

Older translation use the word that Jesus is The Head-The people in the early church had a hard time knowing who to follow. There were the Jewish religious leaders (until the temple was destroyed). There was obviously the Emperor and the entire Roman Army that was realized in Palestine and surely to these people. Then there was Paul himself who had placed Timothy in charge of the church there in Ephesus. Paul made it simple. Jesus is the ultimate authority in the lives of those who follow him. Even today—we call him Lord. When agree to surrender our will to him. However, are we able to relinquish control of our lives? That is what today is about. We confess our sin before God & one another. Then we surrender our will to him. Paul says that Jesus is the authority for the benefit of the church. Finally Paul explains:

The church is his body; it is filled by Christ, who fills everything everywhere with his presence.  Ephesians 1:23

If Jesus is the Head-then we are the Body-filled with Christ and his presence through the Holy Spirit.  So, For This Reason….we remember…Jesus, who calls each of us. We remember the purpose for which He has called ALL of us (to be His body for the world) — and we remember…The promise he makes to all who would follow him-as we celebrate and participate in this Great Thanksgiving!


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I find that companies have gotten very creative as to how they disguise “Junk Mail” as personal letters/correspondence. Most of Paul’s letters were written to churches/groups he had either been to or knew who he was. However…this letter was written to an individual.

Paul tell us that this letter is addressed to  someone named…Philemon (Our Much Loved Co-Worker). In referring to Philemon as a Co-worker we are reminded when Paul used this language to describe this to the church in Corinth:

The one who plants and the one who waters work as a team with the same purpose. Yet they will be rewarded individually, according to their own hard work. We work together as partners who belong to God. 1 Corinthians 3:8-9

Then as in all of Paul’s letters..He interjects a word of Thanksgiving saying…I always thank God when I pray for you, PhilemonPaul finds it always important to Thank God for everyone is his life. We will do the same as we proclaim—The Great Thanksgiving prior to our encounter with the sacramental body and blood of Christ.

Paul tells Philemon.

That is why I am boldly asking a favor of youI could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do…

Demand is a strong word..this simply means that it is “The Right Thing” (Agape-Unconditional/Sacrificial Love). In The Name of Christ (is that the only authority). It is by Christ’s authority that we love conditionally both God and others.

Paul continues: “but because of our love, I prefer just to ask you. So take this as a request”…Because of our love Parakeleo (Greek-to walk beside)-How Jesus describes The Holy Spirit…an example for us to emulate. Paul is has waked beside Philemon as the Holy Spirit does for us and we should do for others.

Then Paul tells Philemon his favor/request:

My plea is that you show kindness to Onesimus. I think of him as my own son because he became a believer as a result of my ministry here in prison.

Several things here Paul finally let’s Philemon know what he really needs…

To be kind to Onesimus…the runaway slave (who is now a believer). Paul even considers him like a son in ministry. Maybe Paul feels that Philemon may be more concerned about his lost property than living out his faith. So Paul pushed further..he says to Philemon:

Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us.

It is here Paul uses a play on words. The name Onesimus in Greek means ‘Useful. So Paul makes it known to Philemon that he would be even more useful (to God’s Kingdom as a Fellow Believer than as a Slave. Paul uses similar language in his letter to Timothy (another-Son in The Faith)

In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. 2 Timothy 2:20-21

So Paul tells Philemon:

I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart. I really wanted to keep him here with me while I am in these chains for preaching the Good News.

It is here we see the irony of this situation. Paul (who is currently in Chains) is writing on behalf of Onesimus (who was formerly in Chains) and writing to Philemon who is the only one who hasn’t experienced that phenomenon…or has he? It appears that his concern, his apprehension, his fear may have him “in Chains” that bind his heart from God. Isn’t this the same thing that happens to us? When we find ourselves imprisoned by fear and worry of the world around us. Maybe even by sin itself by not accepting God’s Love & Grace.

Paul goes on to tell Philemon..“Instead of thinking of him as a slave…think him as a beloved brother“..remembering the parable of the Prodigal Son after the son had returned and the father had thrown the feast.

Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound. We had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found Luke 15:26,32

A great reminder of God’s Forgiveness, Love & Grace..the same we need to impart to our bothers & sisters in The Faith

Finally Paul asks Philemon:

Yes, dear brother, please do me this favor for the Lord’s sake. Give me this encouragement in Christ.

To show Onesimus the Grace, Love & Forgiveness of Christ. To Encourage Paul by doing so and most of all for “The Sake of Jesus” who did the same for all of us and whose sacrifice we celebrate today with our brothers & sisters in the faith throughout the world.

John Newton was a slave trader in the 16th century. He was very familiar with people in chains. He realized that it was actually himself that was in chains spiritually. When he realized God’s Amazing Grace he broke free from those chains and wrote one of the best known hymns of all time. A verse from that hymn that is rarely sung goes:

The Lord has promis’d good to me, His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be, As long as life endures.

Through a relationship with Christ and by the power of The Holy Spirit…The Chains of this World are broken and the Chains that remain are Chains of Love.


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In The Gospel of Luke 13, the 10th verse opens by telling us that the events that follow happened “One Sabbath Day” which would be a Saturday morning. Sabbath/Shabbat begins Friday evening (Sunset)-Saturday(Sunset). It is given in the Law-The original  “Big 10” to stress the importance of Rest.


We find that earlier in Luke’s gospel (Chapter 4) Jesus sets a precedent by teaching in “their synagogues” on the Sabbath. It is here we find him in his hometown (Nazareth) stating the purpose of his ministry by quoting the prophet Isaiah:


He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him…The Spirit of the LORD is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.”


Jesus had come to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy that The Messiah will be bringer of Good News…Freedom…Restore Sight…Proclaim..Jubilee—This didn’t play too well in his hometown..it is still the message Jesus proclaimed throughout his ministry and was probably not that different this Sabbath Day as this story unfolds.


Luke tells us that Jesus sees a woman who was crippled by an evil spirit…As he is addressing this crowd at this particular Synagogue he sees a person who doesn’t quite fit. Someone who epitomizes who he was sent to share The Good news and proclaim Freedom. He could see that she was crippled he sensed it was as a result of “An Evil Spirit.”


When Luke tells us that this woman is crippled by an evil spirit we find that here in the original Greek it literally means a weakness or disconnect between her spiritual self (God) and physical self. A similar use of this phrasing comes in the story of the three disciples that accompany Jesus at Gethsemane. Jesus tells them:


“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”


Even for us often time we can be crippled by allowing a disconnect between ourselves & God. When worry and fear take hold of our lives.


Luke tells us that this woman had been bent over for 18 Years.  In actuality in Greek it is written (δέκακαίὀκτώ) which means 10 plus 8—the number 10 usually references the Law and in particular the 10 Commandments. This woman was there on the Sabbath according to The Law. The number 8 has particular significance dealing with New Beginnings-8 people on the Ark, 8 days Passover to Rosh Hashanah-David 8th Son. Baptismal Font-Eight Sides..Our Baptism is A new Beginning..for this woman she had been Faithful to the law & now was about to experience a New Beginning of her own.


Luke tells us she was unable to stand up straight. This phrase in Greek is used only one other time in Scripture in the story of another woman accused of Adultery. In John’s Gospel:


He stood up again and said, “All right, stone her. But let those who have never sinned throw the first stones!“ Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one…then Jesus stood up again and said to her, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”


So first Luke tells us that Jesus Saw her…but not as the rest of the people gathered that day…he saw despite her condition. James tells us in his Epistle that as followers of Christ we should do the same. James Writes:


Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father  means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us.


In addition to seeing her he actually called her…Luke tell us that he called her over and said.

” Woman you are healed of your sickness.” Amazing that Jesus heals people in different ways. As he does for us today. Some people need to hear that Call of Jesus that the disconnect between us & God is no longer. Many people need more than anything to hear those words of Compassion that Christ gave to his Disciples and all those who would follow him. In Matthew’s Gospel he records:


Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.


That is Healing…How many are left “Unhealed Today” …How many…”Come To Him?…


Then Luke tells us that Jesus touched her and instantly she could stand straight.

He speaks the words then touches her. Reminding me of the Gaither Hymn recalling that time of encounter with Christ when ultimate Healing takes place “He touched me & made me whole.”


In the case of this woman it helped her to Stand which represents an ability to withstand or overcome the work of The Enemy—Paul tells the Ephesian Church:


Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand… stand firm then…


“When”..not “If” the Day of Evil Comes, after “You” have done everything to “Stand”…

“Stand Firm” (In God)…just as this woman was able to do.


Then Luke tells us that this woman Praised & Thanked God—She realized where the healing power came from. Luke tells a similar story later in his gospel about a leper colony that Jesus passes by with 10 lepers who are healed by Jesus’ actions—only one returned to give thanks and was also praising God…Do we Praise God enough for what he has done? That is why we come on Sunday mornings. Worship Him daily.


Then there was the “Leader in charge of the synagogue” Luke tells us:

But the leader in charge of the synagogue was indignant that Jesus had healed her on the Sabbath day. “There are six days of the week for working,” he said to the crowd. “Come on those days to be healed, not on the Sabbath.”


Luke tells us he was “indignant”…(GK-Bent out of shape). The same as this lady

He was so into the Pharisaical law (in addition to God’s law) he was willing to allow this woman or anyone to not be healed on the Sabbath.Then Jesus responds:


“You hypocrite! You work on the Sabbath day! Don’t you untie your ox or your donkey from their stalls on the Sabbath and lead them out for water?”


When we get so technical about what is & isn’t a sin.. we lose sight of God’s purpose.

Jesus adds:


Wasn’t it necessary for me, even on the Sabbath day, to free this dear woman from the bondage in which Satan has held her for eighteen years?”


The woman needed to be freed from her disconnect with God. He mentions the 18 years to symbolize that this man also needed to be freed from his disconnect. He was “Bent out of Shape” by The Law and need to a new beginning himself.


Then Luke tells us: That this (Jesus response) shamed his enemies.The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church:


But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.


Maybe many people were in need of healing that Sabbath Day. Maybe the same can be said for us today.The world would tells us to be Wise & Strong


Then finally Luke concludes with: “All the people rejoiced at the wonderful things he did.”

Which indicates to me that All were healed that day…Because they all rejoiced.

It all started with Jesus seeing this woman that everyone else saw as disfigured and insignificant.

Yet he saw her standing there, upright and a child of God and as she rejoiced in her healing…I believe eyes were opened. Jesus was showing them that he truly had come to bring Good News…Free prisoners…recover sight…release the oppressed…and when he does…Then they (the ones healed) will proclaim the Jubilee. In Psalm 22, which is well known by Jesus reciting the first few words on the cross: “My God. My God…why have you foresaken me.” However it ends by stating:


The poor will eat and be satisfied. All who seek the LORD will praise him. Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy.


No matter where you are today. Jesus sees you standing there. Will you be healed? Let Your heart rejoice with everlasting joy…AMEN

UHF (Unlimited Holy Friendship)

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I was remembering  back in “The Day,” before Social Media, before You Tube, before Cable TV, there was  a phenomena known as “UHF” (opening more channels for the Television audience). In those days in most major metro areas there were a grand total of 3 stations. You could see your favorite shows only once a week. However, I had the great fortune to be living just outside  Atlanta, Georgia when a man named Ted Turner (long before the cable days) started broadcasting on a new frequency (UHF). He would provide shows like Gilligan’s Island, Andy Griffith, and The Beverly Hillbillies…Everyday. A panacea for a pre-teen in the late1960’s/early 70’s!

I’m reminded of how we as Christian culture have found (find) ourselves in the same mindset of needing to worship God only once a week. What has happened over 2000 years ? How can we as the church find a way (as was the practice of the early church)  for daily worship. What could be our UHF?  That is exactly what Jesus brought/brings us..Unlimited Holy Friendship. An opportunity to commune and worship The Living God through a relationship that is closer than any friend on Facebook and/or anyone we follow on Twitter. Like a line from another show that was broadcast on that original UHF channel…”This is your mission..if you decide to accept it…”

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the LORD added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2: 46-47

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