Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Sermon for Sunday 26th May 2013- Trinity Sunday – Romans 5:1-5 and John 16: 12-15, Proverbs 8: 1-31

 To rejoice God in the presence and power of The Father, Son and Holy Spirit –
 Even if we get Stones in our Shoes sometimes.

There are some things that we cannot put into words no matter how skilled we are. It is difficult to capture a sunset in words, though it is not hard to enjoy the sunset. A meaningful relationship cannot be tied down by a description, yet it is still good to say why some relationships are meaningful to us. Love cannot be fully expressed in words – it is beyond mere expression – but it would be a sad world if we gave up trying to tell of our love. In the same way, when we try to explain the Trinity we find that words fail us. The mystery of Godhead cannot be contained to a neat formula and put in a box or grasped by our minds. The majesty of God is beyond our comprehension. Yet we need to communicate our experience and tell of the things of our heart. Often what the mind cannot comprehend the heart can grasp.

In trying to describe the ‘Trinity’, St. Patrick suggested the shamrock with its three shapes that made one leaf. Others have suggested body, mind and spirit; three parts that you cannot fully separate and yet one being. Others have suggested the sun in the sky. The sun provides the light in the world. The light gives life to the world and in the light we can live and move. Let the light remind us of Jesus who is the Light of the World. Even on the dullest of days the sun still provides us with light. The sun also provides us with warmth. Without the warmth the world would be cold and dead. In the warmth we grow and live. Let the warmth remind us of the Spirit. Glory, light and warmth – we can talk of them as separate things and yet they are bound together. One would not exist without the other.

But the word ‘Trinity’ does not appear anywhere in the Bible, yet the Bible is full of accounts of the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer or Comforter. The reading from Proverbs 8: 1-4 and 22-31 hints at ‘wisdom’ being God’s assistant or
co-worker from the beginning: ‘I was beside Him, like a master worker, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before Him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.’ For God to have a personality there needs to be at least another personality to relate to. Personality is of the utmost importance because it is of the essence of the Godhead. The way we reflect God’s image is through our personality.

There are only hints and expressions of the Trinity but there is no doubt that our God is a triune God. We believe in God the Creator who made the world and all that is in it. God created the world out of his own love and for his love. We believe that God revealed himself to the world in Jesus. Jesus is God incarnate. When the world strayed away from God and got lost in sin and death, Jesus came to redeem the world through his love and to bring us eternal life. Once Jesus ascended into the heavens, the Holy Spirit came to us and gave us strength and guidance. The Holy Spirit is God. Yet there are not three Gods separate from each other but One God. Hard to grasp with the mind, but the heart will begin to understand if we give our attention to each person of the Trinity. In John’s Gospel we have Jesus talking of the ‘Spirit of truth’ who ‘will guide you into all truth’. He also tells us of the Father and how he had given all to His Son and that now the Spirit helps us witness to the world and glorify Christ before the world, so we need to depend on Him.

So if we reflect God’s image through our personality and ‘the local church is the hope of the world’ (a Bill Hybel’s quote); why am I, why are we always trying to avoid putting my/our foot where I don’t want to tread? I find this really difficult. Don’t you?  Whether we like it or not, we will come up against people and situations which threaten our confidence and make it feel as if we’re walking on thin ice or looking foolish.

Have you ever been in an embarrassing moment? You’ve walked for what seems like miles with a huge boulder fighting for space in your shoe as I did whilst away last week. This boulder prods and jabs at every opportunity as it attempts to evict your foot from its previously comfy surroundings. You stop, take off your shoe to reveal to the world the size of this enormous piece of granite…..only to find it is a tiny pebble in the palm of your hand and to make matters worse, you’ve only walked a short way. The embarrassment, the groans and insults that everyone throws at you for complaining about, in essence a speck of dust! But they don’t understand. To me and you, the piece of grit felt like a considerable portion of the pebbled beach. You were just about to phone whichever government organisation deals with the height of the pebble hills and inform them that one of their pebble hills isn’t where it should be…it’s where you don’t want it to be. I wasn’t really going to phone. You know what I mean!

Other people might think your complaints unjustified but for you and me the pain was genuine. The discomfort was all too real. Nothing else felt as important as putting the pebble mountain back where it belonged and recapturing that feeling of comfort.

At times, it feels as if our lives are plagued by irritating little bits of grit that are intent on annoying us at every opportunity. Sometimes it is not the bits of grit that cause us discomfort, it’s huge rocks that have placed themselves just where we want to walk! We have a choice. We can stop and remove the grit or carry on walking! No contest! At other times it is not so simple. We cannot always remove or avoid the rocks in our path; we need to learn how to climb over them.

Of course, we always have the option of either stopping where we are or turning around and going back the way we came. But God encourages us to go forward and face the rocks, learn how to deal with them. In Romans 5, St. Paul tells us, ‘We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ and a little Later St Paul declares, ’God’s love have been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us’. And that trials work for us, not against us, and develop Christian character. How rich are we!

For some, ‘the rocks’ may be relationships or financial difficulties. For other people it might be their career or education that is causing them to feel as if their progress has ground to a halt. We can be certain of one fact: we will never learn how to deal with these obstacles if we turn our backs on them. Dealing with the ‘rocks’ takes courage; it often involves pain, frustration and anger. It is at these times that God longs for us to ask him to help, to get him involved and longs to teach us how to climb. It is never easy but it makes for an interesting journey. Paul teaches us that we can have peace, and we can have access into God’s grace, His joy, His hope, His love, the Holy Spirit. And when we have given God the pebbles in our shoe or have learnt how to climb the pebble hills then we will reveal the ‘Trinity’ to a waiting world. A waiting world I hear someone say! Yes, there is someone in the world out there who is waiting for someone in here to reveal the ‘Trinity’ to them. This being the case what riches we have in Christ!

In short:

Jesus was preparing His disciples for His departure to the Father. His disciples understandably we're afraid and uncertain as to what would become of them. He told them it was better that He go away because if He did not, the Holy Spirit would not come to them. While Jesus was only able to be in one place at one time because of His physical form, the Holy Spirit is omnipresent and follows as well as lives in each believer and can be with them always.

·         What will the Holy Spirit tell the disciples?
·         What will Jesus tell the Holy Spirit?
·         Whom will the Holy Spirit glorify?
·         Does the Holy Spirit still speak today?

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Pentecost Sunday 19 May 2013 Acts 2:1-17, John 14:8-17, Bruce

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teachuntil the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
    blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood
    before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved.

This can seem to be a difficult Sunday.  We are talking about the coming of the Holy Spirit.  This seems like a strange concept, slightly unreal, distant from ordinary life.  The account of a sound like a mighty rushing wind and what looked like tongues of flame seems far removed from our experience of God and his church?  How do we make sense of it?

First, note that Jesus promised this to us his disciples.  Just as he told his disciples in advance about his death and resurrection, but they struggled to understand what he was saying, so he told them in advance that he would send his Spirit.  They needed to be “open for all that he had for them”, and so do we.  Jesus promised that they would be baptized … a word that means plunged, immersed, soaked.  They were to be drenched in his Spirit.

Second, they were to receive power.  This is very practical, and literally down to earth.  Jesus went into the heavens, taking something of earth with him.  He then sent down his Spirit, another advocate or helper, or comforter, - just like him.  The Spirit no longer lives with us but he actually lives in us.  Heaven has come down to earth, so that earth can be changed to be like heaven.  Without him we can do nothing.  In fact anything that we do try to do will be worse than useless and probably end being harmful to the kingdom.  As we open ourselves to “be open to follow him wherever he lead us”, so we see people and situations changed here on earth as they are in heaven.

Third, the Holy Spirit brings unity among God’s people.  They were all together in one place, waiting.  That is why united prayer meetings can seem so much more powerful than individuals on their own.  God’s power is at work in a special way when his people take time to wait together, pray together, adjust their ideas and priorities in the light of being with others.  Note that Peter stood up “with the eleven”; there is no place for ego or prima donnas.  Jesus is in charge and as we co-operate with his Spirit, so we together experience his love and see growth and transformation.  Even when we do not agree, this is an opportunity to grow in maturity and character as we become more like Jesus by the work of his Spirit. 

Fourth, be prepared to be misunderstood.  Earth is sometimes so far from being like heaven that people do not always recognise God’s work for being what it is.  Philip and the other disciples did not always “get it”.  They knew that Jesus was special, but they struggled with the concept that if they saw Jesus, they were looking at the father.  God is at work amongst and in us.  Our circle of families, friends, colleagues and neighbours may at times see something of this and be drawn to it.  They may also be frankly baffled by it, and even a little hostile (some thought that the disciples were drunk).  Jesus said that the world cannot accept the Holy Spirit, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  But we know him.

Fifth, look out for God at work.  Each of the hearers understood in their own language.  They would all have spoken Greek, but no matter where they came from, they were hearing these Galileans speak their home language.  Be on the lookout for God to meet members of your circle of family, friends, colleagues and neighbours.  He will not do the same thing to all of them.  Different things will happen, at different times, in ways that we do not always expect.  God knows and loves each of them as a precious, unique individual.  He loves you too.  The coming of his Holy Spirit to immerse us will give us the desire to pray for them and show them his love, the sensitivity to know how to respond to them on each occasion, and the ability to reach out to them.

Sixth, the coming of the Holy Spirit will open up the bible to us in a new way.  As he inspired the writers to produce the words in the scriptures, so he will inspire us to read them and draw new strength and inspiration from them.  He will give us his help to understand, alongside our God-given minds and thought, and as we read his word, his Spirit will use it to transform us from within.

Seventh, they were all impacted, and all found themselves included in this new movement of God here on earth.  The promise is to you.  Jesus died and rose again for you.  He sent his Spirit to live in you.  Through you, he can reach out to the street or road where you live, the place where you work or shop or meet others.  Jesus promises that if we believe in him, we will continue the works that he did during his earthly ministry, and that we will do even more.

Lord, help us to be open for all that you have for us …

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Sunday 12 May 2013, Easter 7, Acts 16:16-34, John 17:20-26, Kate Hillman

It’s that time of year again when many of us are thinking about our summer holidays; where we’re going…what we need to take… and how we’re going to get there. In my household getting myself, my husband and four sons packed up and ready for a journey is no mean feat I can tell you!

Did you know that more journeys take place in the book of Acts than anywhere else in the Bible? Bruce did a great job last week of highlighting on his map all the geographical comings-and-goings of Paul’s previous expedition; isn’t it a shame that Paul didn’t have the chance to earn ‘air miles’?  Bruce explained how, as part of his second trip, Paul has now come to a place called Philippi.

So what’s Paul got packed in his suitcase? Well along with his Greek guide book and first aid kit (which he’s going to need) he’s carrying the Christian message which is being taken from the rural, Palestinian environment of Jesus to the largely urban world of the Greek cities in the Roman Empire. Some passages suggest that Luke, the author of Acts, joins the travelling group for at least some of the time on a journey that will eventually weave all the way to Rome; a trip that involves sharing their precious cargo with those they meet along the way.

I don’t know how many of you watched the recent adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Lady Vanishes’ on BBC1, a drama that involves the overlapping stories of strangers on a train journey. Paul’s encounter with the female slave echoes this; two strangers whose paths cross with dramatic consequences angering those whose selfish plans are scuppered in the process. As a writer Luke was definitely one for exotic settings and adventurous plots too! Paul’s experience here is rather like Jesus’ in the gospels with spirits yelling out in recognition of God’s power. Of course when we hear the words ‘…the Most High God’ we don’t start imagining Zeus or other local gods like those who were there would have done and to them the word ‘salvation’ would have meant ‘rescue’, ‘health’ or ‘prosperity’ and not what it means to us today. This probably explains why Paul isn’t thrilled about all the shouting, even if what the slave says is actually true. He understands the potential for misunderstanding among those whose perception of the supernatural is culturally very different. Although the version of the Bible that we’re looking at today says that Paul is ‘annoyed’ other versions talk about him being ‘troubled’ or ‘grieved’ which suggest compassion for the slave rather than just irritation at the spirit within her.

My oldest son likes to watch the BBC’s ‘Watchdog’ programme with its ‘Rogue Traders’ side-line. The formidable Anne Robinson heads up the team who are out to expose those who exploit others for their own gain….and boy are some of those people angry when the secret cameras catch up with them and blow their dodgy operations out of the water! The slave owners are furious too, Paul has exorcised their means of income as well as the evil spirit and they aren’t about to let him get away with it. Although their motivation is commercial the slave owners cleverly tap into a deep-rooted prejudice against the adoption of foreign religious customs by Roman citizens and the stage is set for a scene of civic melodrama and violence. Unlike Alfred Hitchcock who terrified his audiences by building up the psychological tension in his films before depicting the violence, Luke’s account of what happens is brief and factual.  However let’s not underestimate the severity of the bloodshed here as Paul and Silas are severely flogged and beaten by a mob wielding rods, it’s definitely on an (18) film certificate scale rather than a (PG)!

And so their day’s journey which starts with them travelling peacefully to pray ends with them being thrown into prison battered, bleeding and dreadfully wounded. As writer Mike Pilavachi says ‘Christians have bumper stickers and catch phrases, believers have creeds and promises, disciples have scars and stories’.

When I was a student I was fortunate enough to be accepted into my University Air Squadron; learning to fly the RAF’s small training planes. If we were in the right place at the right time we could sometimes get invited on to other trips and I once managed to hitch a ride on a Nimrod flight over the Atlantic. It was very exciting; the fast jets were blowing things up in the water and we were there providing sonar assistance.  Being in the cockpit to watch the air-to-air re-fuelling was an unforgettable moment in my life; it is amazing to be that close to another plane in mid-flight!

I have come to understand prayer this way; on our journeys we need God, through His Holy Spirit, to re-fuel us. We need to get to the space and altitude where we can meet up and connect with Him and as people with different personalities we’ll do this in a variety of ways. Re-fuelling takes time and two-way communication, it can’t be rushed and it needs to be a priority. There are only so many miles we can travel before the fuel runs out and then we’re in trouble! When I’ve hit bad weather in my own life and I’ve wobbled and been fearful that I might fall out of the sky I have imagined God’s re-fuelling plane with me topping me up and enabling me to fly on.

In the belly of a dark prison, restrained and terribly injured Paul and Silas, praying and singing hymns to God, seek to be re-fuelled; flying above their current circumstances they radio the God who they know will come alongside and fill them up to cope with the bad weather that’s descended. And as often happens with the God who is bigger and more powerful than we can understand he changes the weather as well and the earthquake hits…

The jailor is on a journey too…his emotions travel from calm, to fear, to panic, to relief and eventually to joy but when he says ‘What must I do to be saved?’ he isn’t asking for a ‘detailed exposition of justification by grace through faith’…no, his first century understanding of salvation is very different to ours. As a wise bishop once said to the Theologian NT Wright it might not be a word-for-word translation but ‘will you please tell me how I can get out of this mess?’ may better reflect the sense of the jailor’s frantic question. Paul and Silas take the question they are asked and they deepen it, we have part of their answer but the implication is that they spend time talking to the jailor and his household about the Christian message they are carrying. They have a cargo they want to share at every opportunity, a gift that the jailor and his household accept with joy as they start their own journeys of faith with God that night.

If our Acts reading were made into a film what a wonderful closing scene it would have; maybe we wouldn’t ask Alfred Hitchcock to direct it! A heart-warming sight that reflects the prayer in our gospel reading; a scene of unity brought about through the giving and receiving of the Christian message…a harmony that reflects the unity between the Father and the Son. ‘In John’s gospel the Word undertakes a cosmic journey from the Father’s presence to earth. The word becomes flesh, fulfils His father’s mission and returns to God’ and in a way that is hard for us to fully comprehend we are invited to become part of that…Jesus being the ultimate bridge that links us to the Father.

Having the Christian message packed in our suitcases is an awesome responsibility and sharing it can take courage. For some of our brothers and sisters around the world even carrying it can be very costly. Paul and Silas illustrate beautifully that whilst our journeys may take difficult and unexpected turns for the worse we can rely on a God who is always with us wherever we are. When Paul and Silas are praying and singing in prison they don’t know what’s coming next. Unlike many in their day and in ours, they don’t look to fortune-tellers to seek hope that a situation will change or to pursue answers to the unknown…they simply seek to be re-fuelled by God for the journey ahead…wherever that may lead.  

Discussion starters

1.       Are you carrying the Christian message in your suitcase through your journey of life; is it easily accessible or is it hidden away at the bottom where you don’t get it out very much?
2.       Do you spend time being re-fuelled by God; how do you do this?
3.       Paul and Silas were able to sing and pray despite their difficult circumstances; how do you react when suffering comes?
4.       The other prisoners listened to Paul and Silas in prison and didn’t run away after the earthquake; how do your actions (as individuals and as a church) impact those around you? 

Sunday 5 May 2013, Easter 6, Acts 16:6-15, John 14:23-29, Open to the Spirit, Bruce

We saw last week the fallout from Peter’s visit to the house of Cornelius, a gentile and Roman officer, who believes and is baptised.  When criticised for this Peter makes the defence that God took the initiative by filling Cornelius and the members of his household with the Holy Spirit.  Peter had to be open to what God was doing, and so did his fellow Christians back in Jerusalem.  This sparked off in us questions about how open we are to respond to God’s moving in each of us.
As we move through the weeks of Easter, our readings lead us to towards Ascension and Pentecost – Jesus handing on the active work of bringing in the kingdom to us his disciples, as we are motivated and led by his Spirit.
We last met Paul when he was Saul, meeting Jesus on the Damascus road.  By chapter 16 he has become a missionary, who has undertaken one journey in Cyprus, Pamphylia and Galatia.  He has fallen out with his friend Barnabas and has decided to go north with Silas and Timothy, into un-evangelised territory.  (We learn something of Luke’s interests from the fact that Barnabas goes back to Cyprus, and we do not hear of him again.)
How do we make sense of Paul’s story?  We are told that he and his companions head north through Phrygia and Galatia.  They do this because they have been prevented from going into Asia to preach by the Holy Spirit.  We are given no indication about how this worked.  They therefore head north towards Bythinia, and again the Spirit of Jesus blocks them.  So they wind up at Troas, on the coast.  While there, Paul gets a vision, not dissimilar to what had happened before to Peter, but now he is being called to cross the sea to a new continent.  The vision comes during the night, so was he asleep and dreaming, or was he awake?  Did he see an actual Galatian man, or was this some angelic vision?  The bible record is clear and concise, but we could have wished for more explanations about what was actually happening.
My best surmise is that Paul and his companions have left the main base in London to visit the newish centre at Winchester.  They want to go Salisbury, but have been firmly convinced that this is not God’s will for them (Prophecy? Circumstances? Lack of certainty?)  They therefore head for Winchester, but this is also not right and they end up in Portsmouth.  I can imagine some debates among them; what are we doing here?  How sure are we about what God is saying?  What is our purpose or vision?
Were they there for a few days?  A few weeks?  Had they been praying for a definitive answer, or was Paul taken by surprise?  It is as if a Frenchman had popped into his consciousness, saying please come over here.  Was this a new thought, or did it confirm something that Paul had been wondering about?
However this all came about, it does seem that the whole group prayerfully decided to follow the lead and act in accordance with the vision.  (Notice in passing that the group has grown; the narrator (Luke) has joined them and speaks of “we” rather than “they”.)  We are observing an important part of life in the light of Easter: that the risen Jesus guides us by his Spirit and shows us how we should live.  During his conversation with his disciples at the last supper (John 14), he says he will be leaving them, and that their hearts should not be troubled.  This is because he will send them someone else just like him – the parakletos, variously translated as the Advocate, the Comforter; by this he meant the Holy Spirit, who we have seen actively guiding and sometimes frustrating Paul as he has sought direction.  (You will, I am sure, be familiar with the thought that what we call The Acts of the Apostles should rather be called The Acts of the Holy Spirit.)  We might even be supposed to wonder if this is what it was like for Jesus here on earth, constantly responding to the promptings and leadings of his Father.
We therefore see this union between openness to the Spirit and the mundane and necessary booking of boat tickets and making of travel plans, God’s kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven.  Paul was a businessman (he made tents), who was also an active disciple and servant, building community and sharing the faith.  This was all because he was pre-eminently living a life centred on Jesus, and radically open to the promptings of the Spirit.
The fruit of this can be (and was for Paul) that we see God at work.  Paul’s usual practice was to go the synagogue and start by preaching to Jews that their Messiah had come.  The Jewish community in Philippi was obviously so small that there was no synagogue, so he uses his cultural knowledge to go where he might expect to find Jewish believers or gentile people aspiring to worship the Jewish God.  Thus he encounters Lydia, who is from the very province of Asia that he had earlier been forbidden to evangelise.  It is as if he was not allowed to visit Salisbury, but here he is at a market place in St Malo, meeting up with a Salisbury girl who is desperate to encounter God and grow in him.
I am left wondering if the God who works all things together for the good of the elect was doing two things at once?  By bringing Paul to Macedonia, the Holy Spirit is planting the church in Europe, and this has strategic consequences for the worldwide church, ultimately for us.  Equally important, though, is the story of woman who was a traveller and a merchant, and who was open to receive the life of God into her own heart.
We as a church community have a calling to follow and a mission in this town and more widely; I ask you pray for the PCC as we seek to follow God’s leading.  Equally importantly, each of us has an individual call to follow Jesus, and to allow his Spirit to work in our lives.  This next two weeks in the run up to Pentecost is a time to be open to all that God has for us.  Jesus said “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them…. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

Discussion Starters
1.       What do you see in this story, God giving clear direction to Paul and the others, or a time of confusion and doubt?
2.       What do you make of the fact that Paul is steered away from the familiar to new directions?
3.       “If you love me, keep my commandments …”  What are you aware that God might be calling you to?  Who can gather round you in prayer and support to help you work this out?
4.       What do you think that God might be wanting to say to St Michael’s, and especially to our PCC, through this story?