Comments

Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Seventh Sunday after Pentecost - July 7, 2013



Saint Dominic contemplating the Scriptures Saint Dominic contemplating the Scriptures
Author's note:
Sometimes I have material left over when I edit Comments down to fit the available space. This page presents notes that landed on the clipping room floor. Some may be useful to you. While I avoid technical language in the Comments (or explain special terms), Clippings may have unexplained jargon from time to time.

A hypertext Glossary of Terms is integrated with Clippings. Simply click on any highlighted word in the text and a pop-up window will appear with a definition. Bibliographic references are also integrated in the same way.

2 Kings 5:1-14

Verse 1: “the king of Aram”: He is named as Ben-hadad in 8:7 (where Elisha visits him). [JBC]

Verse 1: “leprosy”: 7:3-16 tells the story of four leprous men who intend to infect the Aramean army but instead stem the famine in the Israelite camp – with Yahweh’s help. They are Yahweh’s agents and messengers. Leviticus 15:2-13 contains commandments regarding a man who has bodily discharges (then considered a kind of leprosy). [JBC]

Verse 2: “young girl”: NJBC offers little maid. She is pre-adolescent.

Verse 5: “ten talents of silver ... ”: According to NOAB, the silver would have weighed about 350 kg (750 lbs). Bringing gifts when approaching a prophet was normal practice: for other examples, see 1 Samuel 9:6-10 (Saul meets Samuel) and 1 Kings 14:2-3 (Jeroboam’s wife approaches the prophet Abijah). [NJBC]

Verse 5: “He”: i.e. Naaman, not the king of Aram.

Verse 7: “the king of Israel”: Elisha normally had little liking for Jehoram (see 6:30-33) so perhaps this verse comes from a different tradition.

Verse 8: Elisha’s self-assurance contrasts with the king’s agitation. The story revolves around people moving from ignorance and misconception to genuine knowledge. [NJBC]

Verse 14: “his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy”: Leviticus 13-14 describes varieties and symptoms of leprosy as recognized in the ancient world. For healing of leprosy in the New Testament, see Matthew 8:2-3; Mark 1:40-42; Luke 5:12-13. For Jesus’ cleansing of lepers as signs of the arrival of the Kingdom, see Matthew 11:5 and Luke 7:22. [NOAB] Lepers will be cleansed when Christ comes again.

Verses 15-19a: Elisha refuses to accept Naaman’s gift. Naaman asks to take with him “two mule-loads of earth” from Israel, the idea being that a god could only be worshipped in his own land. He would then be able to sanctify the site of an altar to Yahweh. Naaman vows to worship only Yahweh. Naaman will only bow down to “Rimmon” if he is forced to do so; may Yahweh pardon him for such an act. [NOAB] [CAB]

Verse 16: “refused”: If he accepts, it will appear that Elisha has effected the cure through his own powers. [NJBC]

Verse 17: Naaman’s request shows the common ancient misconception that a deity was linked and limited to a particular territory. In Psalm 137:4, the psalmist (or the community) asks: “How could we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land?”. [NJBC]

Verse 18: Naaman seeks pardon on one count on an ongoing basis: when he escorts his “master” (probably the King of Aram) to the temple of “Rimmon” (another name for Hadad, chief god of Aram), may he be pardoned. [NOAB]

Verse 18: “Rimmon”: The deity’s full name was Haddad Ramman, Haddad the thunderer. He was the chief god and the storm god of Aram. [NJBC]

Verse 19: “‘Go in peace’”: Elisha expresses understanding of the compromises Naaman will have to make. [NJBC]

Verses 20-27: Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, is greedy: he considers that Naaman should have paid for his cure, so he goes after the departing Naaman and falsely asks him for a gift for “two members of the company of prophets” (v. 22). Elisha catches the culprit by extrasensory perception (“in spirit”, v. 26). Gehazi is punished by becoming a leper. [NJBC]

Verse 26: “go with you in spirit”: Elisha alludes to the clairvoyance for which he was famous. See also 6:12. [NJBC]

Verse 27: As in 2:23-25 (where two bears maul some of the boys who taunt Elisha), the point is made that no one can trifle with a prophet with impunity. [NJBC]

Psalm 30

This psalm was probably sung in fulfilment of a vow. [NOAB]

Verse 1: “extol”: Literally raise up. The psalmist raises up praise to God, who has raised him up from near death. [NJBC]

Verse 3: “Sheol ... the Pit”: It is also mentioned in 88:5-6; Job 14:13-19; Genesis 37:35 (Jacob when Joseph is missing from the cistern); 2 Samuel 22:6 (David’s song of thanksgiving when delivered from the hands of Saul). [NOAB]

Verse 5: The joyful reintegration into the community of one who had been at the point of death. See also 22:23-24. [NJBC]

Verse 9: “Will the dust praise you?”: See also 6:5 (“For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who can give you praise?”) and 115:17 (“The dead do not praise the LORD, nor do any that go down into silence”). [NJBC]

Verse 12: “so that my soul may praise you and not be silent”: a psalmist writes in 115:17: “The dead do not praise the LORD, nor do any that go down into silence”. [NJBC]

Galatians 6:(1-6),7-16

5:25: BlkGal says that no doubt is expressed by “if”. He offers a paraphrase: Since we now experience a wholly different quality of life as a consequence of our reception of the Spirit ...

5:25: “guided”: BlkGal offers follow and also be in harmony with. The verb speaks of orderliness vs. the anarchy of the Judaizers.

6:1: “detected in a transgression”: See also Matthew 5:23-24; 18:15-18; James 5:19-20. [CAB] [JBC] BlkGal says that “transgression” is ambiguous, and probably intentionally so. The “transgression” may be unwitting (and regretted) or deliberate unacceptable conduct which a person has tried to hide but has failed to do so. He favours the latter meaning.

Who is to “restore such a one”? BlkGal offers six possibilities, of which he favours those who catch the person in the act. He points out the closest parallels in the New Testament:

  • Matthew 18:15: “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one” and
  • James 5:19: “... if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner's soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins”

Both speak in these terms. A test of your spirituality is how you handle such a situation. “Gentleness” is one of the fruits of the Spirit: see, for example, 1 Corinthians 4:21.

6:1: BlkGal offers keep an eye on yourself lest you also be tempted. “You”, he says, is singular, thus bringing home the individual application. The first verb has the force of look at carefully or critically. Paul sees the ability to maintain a critical self-scrutiny as equally a mark of the Spirit. His pastoral experience tells him that sympathy with a failing person can lead to vulnerability to the same failing. The guidance of the Spirit helps avoid the helper failing too.

6:2: “Bear one another’s burdens”: Paul writes in Romans 15:1-2: “We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Each of us must please our neighbour for the good purpose of building up the neighbour”. [CAB] Paul is probably thinking of a whole range of “burdens” including illness, physical disability, responsibilities, and scruples. When burdens become too much for an individual to bear, other members of the community should help them by sharing the load. [BlkGal]

6:2: “law”: The word is used figuratively. Romans 8:2 says: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” and 1 Corinthians 9:21 speaks of Christians being “under Christ’s law”. The Old Testament command is in Leviticus 19:18: “...you shall love your neighbour as yourself ...” (where “neighbour” is fellow Israelite). See also Matthew 22:39; John 13:34; 1 John 2:7-11; 3:11, 23; 4:10-21; 2 John 5. [NOAB] [CAB] It is strange that Paul says that “the law of Christ” can be, and is, fulfilled through mutual human-to-human love and makes no reference to the God-human dimension. BlkGal says that “law” here is Mosaic law as interpreted by the love command in the light of the Jesus-tradition and the Christ-event. Paul did not see Christianity as constituting a complete break with Judaism, but as its mature form. It is only the Spirit that can make the norm of Christ a dynamic motivating power.

6:3: One might come to think oneself to be more than one really is either because one thinks of one’s self as without sin or because he or she is charitable enough to correct an erring Christian. [NJBC] It seems that Paul was familiar with Christians who, delighting in their experience of the Spirit, assumed airs and responsibilities which they were manifestly unfit to discharge. [BlkGal]

6:4: The standard for oneself is not found simply in comparison with others. [CAB]

6:4: “then that work, rather than their neighbour's work, will become a cause for pride”: BlkGal offers and then he will have reason for boasting with reference to himself alone, and not with reference to the other person. What is in view here is the target of the boasting. Critical self-assessment leads to confidence in their conduct and relationships. The notion of critical self-assessment allowing some boasting is also found in Romans 15:17 and elsewhere in Paul’s letters. In 5:14, Paul writes “For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’”, so self-love is important.

Verse 5: “loads”: BlkGal suggests that Paul is writing of the load of inescapable and everyday responsibilities, ones which only the individual can carry himself.

6:6: A practical manifestation to the catechist of the community. [NJBC] See also 1 Corinthians 9:11, 13-14; Philippians 4:15-16 (the Philippians share financially with Paul) ; 1 Timothy 5:17-18 (“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in preaching and teaching; for the scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,’ and, ‘The labourer deserves to be paid’”). [CAB]

6:6: “taught”: The Greek word, from which our word catechesis is derived, denotes only religious instruction in early Christian literature: see Acts 18:25 (“instructed in the Way of the Lord”) and 1 Corinthians 14:19. [BlkGal]

6:6: “the word”: Probably things which distinguish new converts as Christians, including the Jesus tradition, the ramifications of the gospel, and the Christian interpretation of the Jewish scriptures. It seems from this verse that the first professional Christian ministry was teaching. [BlkGal]

6:7-9: “sow ... reap ... harvest-time”: The image of the farmer who sows, tends his fields with sustained hard work for a period of time, and then reaps the harvest, with the quality of the harvest being largely dependent on his care in tending, was a familiar one and is found often in the Old Testament. Note particularly Proverbs 22:8: “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of anger will fail”. In Christian terms, God initiates (sowing in us the seed of the Spirit), germination and growth occur over a lengthy time, usually in adverse conditions, then Christ comes again. [BlkGal]

6:7: Paul says in Corinthians 15:33: “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals’”. [CAB]

6:7: “for you reap whatever you sow”: A modern equivalent is we are free to choose, but we are not free to choose the consequences of our choice. [BlkGal]

6:8: “If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh”: BlkGal implies, by his translation, that “if” does not express doubt: “For those who sow ...”. Focussing on the act of circumcision, a cutting of the flesh, was to focus the challenge of the gospel on that which was by nature given to weakness and decay and which could end only in corruption and dissolution into dust.

6:8: “but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit”: Again, “if” does not express doubt. BlkGal begins his translation: But those who sow ... He says that the present tense of sow speaks of continuing (and continual) attending to the Spirit.

6:8: This verse sums up 5:16-26. “Eternal life” here means the same as “kingdom of God” in 5:21. The first expression is usually associated with John and 1 John, although it does occur in Romans, the Synoptic gospels and the Pastoral epistles. See also Romans 2:7; 5:21; 6:22-23. [NJBC] The language of “eternal life” emerged late in Jewish thought in connection with the hope of resurrection. See Daniel 12:2; 2 Maccabees 7:9; Psalms of Solomon 3:12. [BlkGal]

6:9: “not grow weary ... not give up”: The latter Greek verb evokes the image of a state of relaxation unprepared for sudden challenge or demand. BlkGal commends the REB translation: Let us never tire of doing good, for if we do not slacken our efforts we shall in due time reap our harvest.

6:10: “whenever we have an opportunity”: BlkGal says that the Greek word has eschatological overtones in Paul’s letters.

Verses 11-18: Paul’s autograph postscript. [NOAB]

6:11: In 1 Corinthians 16:21; 2 Thessalonians 3:17; Philemon 19, we read “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand” (or similar words). In 2 Thessalonians 3:17, he adds “ This is the mark in every letter of mine; it is the way I write”. Using a scribe was usual; Romans 16:22 says: “I Tertius, the writer of this letter, greet you in the Lord”. It is likely that Tertius was a scribe.

6:11: “large letters”: i.e. compared with those of a trained scribe. [NOAB] BlkGal offers three possible reasons why Paul writes thus, the most likely being that he wishes to emphasize the importance of what he is about to write, perhaps as taking up more expensive papyrus than was strictly necessary, or as large enough for the reader to hold up so that the various congregations could read his words for themselves.

6:12: In 5:11, Paul has written: “But my friends, why am I still being persecuted if I am still preaching circumcision? In that case the offence of the cross has been removed”. [CAB]

6:12: “a good showing in the flesh”: In typical Greek understanding, this would naturally be taken as referring to the pleasingness of the human body (as when stripped for an athletic contest); however, Paul is being ironic: he refers to circumcision (which most Greeks considered to be a form of mutilation). [BlkGal]

6:12: “that they may not be persecuted for the cross ...”: The Judaizers fear that if they preach the real message of the cross, they may be persecuted for it by Jews and other Judaizers. They prefer to make a good showing before others by preaching circumcision. [NJBC] BlkGal translates the Greek as only to avoid being persecuted for the cross. He says that the persecution was likely by (some) Jews or Christian Jews, such as Paul had carried out (before his conversion) and he had experienced. If circumcised, the Galatian Christians would have been Jews, and so not subject to persecution by other Jews.

6:13: Paul is probably referring to the group within the Galatian churches who had already succumbed to the propaganda of the Judaizers and are trying to persuade others to follow suit. [BlkGal]

6:13: “obey the law”: i.e. in its entirety. It is not possible to completely obey the Law.

6:14: Unlike the Judaizers’ vanity, Paul’s boast is not self-reliance but dependence on the grace and favour of God. See also 1 Corinthians 1:22-29; 2:2; 3:21; 2 Corinthians 11:16-12:10; Galatians 2:19-20. [NJBC]

6:14: “by which”: NJBC offers through which or through whom. BlkGal favours through whom.

6:14: “the world”: The Greek word is kosmos, by which Paul means all that stands at enmity to God, i.e. the sphere of pleasure and ambition related to the flesh. [NJBC]

6:15: The final declaration of what matters to Christianity. This echoes 5:6: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love”. See also 5:6; 1 Corinthians 7:18-9; Romans 14:13-21. [NOAB] [CAB] [NJBC]

6:15: “a new creation”: See also 1 Corinthians 15:45; 7:19; Romans 6:3-4. [NJBC] The “new creation” is the fulfilment of the promise to Abraham and the coming of age of the (Jewish) heirs. [BlkGal] Perhaps new created-ness is appropriate; however, BlkGal suggests that Paul means the world of existence made new, recreated, as a fitting context for God’s children. In Romans 8:21, Paul writes “... the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God”.

6:16: “As for those who will follow this rule”: BlkGal offers And as many as will follow this rule. He turns first to those who, he hopes, will take seriously what he has written and draw back from any thought of circumcision.

6:16: “this rule”: i.e. the norm by which Paul lives and the standard by which he judges the Judaizers. [BlkGal]

6:16: “peace ... Israel of God”: Paul quotes either Psalm 125:5 or 128:6, but modifies the last words. Both verses end with “Peace be upon Israel!”. For Christians as the new offspring of Abraham, see 3:29; Philippians 3:5; Romans 9:6. [NJBC] “Peace” (Hebrew: shalom) is the traditional Jewish blessing. He reinforces the Jewishness by his use of “mercy”. He says that he prefers “Israel of God” in terms of the promise to Abraham, a promise that includes blessings for the Gentiles, an Israel that does not exclude Jews as a whole and includes Gentile believers. So Paul prays that God’s covenant mercy be fully sustained and achieve its end for all the seed. [BlkGal]

6:17: “let no one make trouble for me”: Paul indicates that the troubles caused among the Galatian churches has been almost like an assault on himself (because of his concern for his converts and the degree to which he had personally invested himself in the Gentile mission). [BlkGal]

6:17: “marks”: The Greek word is stigmata, but the English word stigmata (referring to the marks on Christ’s body) is of much later usage. He had suffered much from illness (see 4:13 and 2 Corinthians 12:7), floggings (see 2 Corinthians 11:25), “wild animals” (see 1 Corinthians 15:32) and “affliction” (see 2 Corinthians 1:8) [CAB] A slave and an animal were branded to mark them as one’s own. For a slave it was seen as a disgrace. [NJBC] BlkGal says that the older view is that the image is drawn from the practice of branding slaves, the more popular view now being that marking indicated one’s dedication to a god and thus came under his protection.

6:18: Philippians 4:23 and Philemon 25 are very similar. Paul also ends other letters with a benediction: see also 1 Corinthians 16:23-24; 2 Corinthians 13:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:28. [BlkGal]

6:18: “spirit”: This is the human spirit (or being). [BlkGal]

6:18: “brothers and sisters”: The addition of these words to the benediction softens the severity of the whole letter. [NOAB]

Luke 10:1-11,16-20

The parallel is Matthew 9:37-38; 10:7-16. [NOAB]

Verse 1: “seventy others”: For Jesus sending out the twelve disciples, see 9:1-5 and Mark 6:7-11. In 9:51-52, Jesus sends “messengers before him”. after turning to go to Jerusalem. [NOAB]

Verse 1: “seventy”: The traditional Jewish number of nations of the world (descendants of Noah) is found in Genesis 10:2-31. In the Masoretic text, there are seventy; in the Septuagint translation, there are seventy-two. [NJBC] In Numbers 11:4-32, Moses is directed by Yahweh to appoint seventy elders who receive the Spirit. In Numbers 11:26, Eldad and Medad are added. Early manuscripts of the New Testament are about equally divided as to whether the number is seventy or seventy-two. [BlkLk]

Verse 1: “in pairs”: Perhaps Jesus sends the missionaries out in pairs for mutual support. Also, Deuteronomy 19:15 requires that, legally, there be at least two witnesses to an event. In pairs, the missionaries would be able to give proper witness to Jesus’ message. [NJBC]

Verse 2: Jesus’ words are the same in Matthew 9:37-38. He says in John 4:35: “Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting”. [NOAB]

Some modern scholars have argued that the Historical Jesus was a Cynic philosopher. This passage indicates that he could not have been. Cynics usually travelled alone, and always carried a bag and a staff. These were recognized in the Hellenistic world as badges of office of the Cynic philosopher. The fact that Jesus tells his disciples not to carry these items indicates that he could not have seen them as Cynics, for no Cynic would be seen without them.

One might argue that Jesus is telling his disciples not to carry the badges of the Cynics in order that they not be mistaken for Cynics by the public. [Alan T Perry]

Verse 3: This saying is also found in Matthew 10:16 (the instructions to the twelve being sent out). [BlkLk]

Verse 4: Do not take excessive time planning your trip. [NOAB]

Verse 4: “no bag”: A traveller used a “bag” to carry food in addition to that needed for a day’s travel.

Verse 4: “Carry ... no sandals”: Do not carry a pair of sandals in addition to those you are wearing.

Verse 4: “greet no one on the road”: Failure to greet fellow travellers would be socially shocking. [NJBC] In 2 Kings 4:29, Elisha instructs Gehazi in similar terms in sending him to the son of the Shunammite woman. [BlkLk]

Verse 5: “‘Peace’”: See also 1 Samuel 25:6: there David sends messengers with a message of peace to Nabal the Calebite (a Gentile). [NOAB]

Verse 6: “who shares in peace”: Literally son of peace. [NJBC]

Verse 7: “the labourer deserves to be paid”: In 1 Timothy 5:18, this phrase is quoted as being “scripture”. The phrase is not found in the Old Testament; Timothy may be quoting this verse. See also 1 Corinthians 9:4-14; Deuteronomy 24:15. [NOAB] There is an implication here that one who preaches the good news and cures the sick deserves payment.

Verse 8: “eat what is set before you”: See also 1 Corinthians 10:27 and Acts 10:25ff (the story of Cornelius). [JBC]

Verse 9: “The kingdom of God has come near to you”: The kingdom came near in the coming of Jesus. It is now brought even nearer in the missionary activity which extends Jesus’ work. See also 11:20. [NOAB] [JBC]

Verse 11: “the dust of your town ...”: As did Paul and Barnabas after some Jews stirred up trouble for them in Antioch in Pisidia: see Acts 13:51. [NOAB]

Verse 12: In Genesis 19:24-28, “Sodom” had no opportunity for repentance, as had the Jewish towns of “Chorazin”, “Bethsaida” and “Capernaum”. See also Matthew 11:24 and Jude 7. [NOAB]

Verses 13-15: Matthew 11:21-23 is similar. See also Luke 6:24-26. [NOAB]

Verse 13: “Chorazin”: A village in the hill country, 5 km NNW of Capernaum, today called Kerazeh. We do not know of Jesus’ ministry there. [JBC]

Verse 13: “Bethsaida”: On the Sea of Galilee. Philip, Andrew and Peter originally came from there: John 1:44 says: “ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter”. [JBC]

Verse 14: At the end of the era, “Tyre and Sidon” (Gentile cities, and classic examples of paganism) will be judged more leniently than the Jewish towns which have rejected Jesus. [NOAB]

Verse 15: Apparently “Capernaum” thought a lot of itself. At Judgement Day, it will be assigned the lowest status possible (“Hades”). This verse echoes Isaiah 14:13-15. [NOAB] It seems likely that the words are proverbial, perhaps often quoted from a poem well known in the Aramean world. [BlkLk]

Verse 16: In Matthew 10:40, Jesus instructs his emissaries: “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me”. See also Matthew 18:5; Mark 9:37; Luke 9:48; John 12:48; 13:20; Galatians 4:14. [NOAB]

Verse 16: “rejects”: BlkLk offers despises. Stephen’s speech makes clear that rejecting Christ’s messenger is rejecting God: in Acts 7:51, Stephen says: “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do”. [BlkLk]

Verses 17-20: These verses are modelled on 9:10 (“On their return the apostles told Jesus all they had done. ...”), to which the parallel is Mark 6:30. [JBC]

Verse 17: For Jesus’ power over demons near Galilee, see 8:26-39 (the Gerasene demoniac). For Jesus’ granting of power over evil to the Twelve, see 9:1-2. [NJBC]

Verse 18: John 12:31 says: “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out”. See also Revelation 12:7-12 (war in heaven, with the defeat of the Devil and Satan, and their throwing down to the earth) and Revelation 20:1-3 (the Devil is consigned to Hell). In the Old Testament, Satan is found at times in Yahweh’s throne room arguing like a prosecuting attorney against the true welfare of God’s people: see Job 2:1ff; Zechariah 3:1ff. [NOAB] [JBC] This verse may be inspired by Isaiah 14:12, but the notion of the final defeat of Satan may have been entertained by Jesus himself. [BlkLk]

Verse 19: “I have given you authority”: The tense of the verb in the Greek indicates that this is a permanent gift. See also Mark 6:7 (the twelve are sent out and given authority “over the unclean spirits”). See also Luke 22:29-30. [JBC]

Verse 19: “the enemy”: See also Matthew 13:39, where the enemy is identified as the devil. [NOAB] In Acts (e.g. 28:1-6), Luke recalls that Jesus rescued his missionaries from the forces of destruction. [NJBC]

Verse 20: “your names are written in heaven”: God’s record book, his “book of life” is mentioned in Daniel 12:1; Psalm 69:28; Exodus 32:32; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 21:27. Hebrews 12:23 refers to “the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven”. [NOAB]

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