Official Publication of the LMS-USA
Volume 7, Number 2
In this Issue:
The Lutheran Ministerium and Synod describes itself as, Biblical, Confessional, Evangelical, Liturgical, and Congregational. While all these terms are good descriptive terms, they, at the same time, depending on one's background and present leaning, can mean quite different things to different people. In fact, even a term like Evangelical, a term with roots in the New Testament Scriptures, can have vastly different meanings to different persons. It is with this in mind that the following chapter from a small volume by Selmer A. Berge has been included in this issue of Table Talk. Berge sets forth for us an understanding of Evangelism that is at the heart of what the LMS considers Evangelism to be, and which it believes is also biblical.
Berge's little volume was written and published in 1943, thus the reference to 100 years as he begins. Now better than 50 years later these words are still well worth our consideration.
The LMS Annual Convention
St. Matthew Luth. Church
The LMS June Convention this year will be, among other things, a celebration
of five years as a church body. Five pastors and five congregations originally
met over mutual concerns, and of that group, three pastors and four congregations
joined to form the LMS-USA in April of 1995. Of the original group, two pastors
and two congregations remain, Pastor Ralph Spears and St. Mattew Lutheran
Chruch of Indianapolis, IL, and Rev. John Erickson and Christ Lutheran Church
of Chetek, WI. Since that time other pastors and congregations have joined
and some have left, so that at present we have some 20 pastors and 9
congregations on our membership roles.
Besides the usual business of elections and budgets, the convention this year will have to continue dealing with the matter of our Seminary and how we can better foster a sense of family among pastors and congregations of the synod.
The LMS was formed to be a 'forum' in which there is opportunity for on going discussion of theological issue and concerns among the clergy and laity. In keeping with this goal, this year's Conference sessions will investigate what is meant by the term Evangelical which is one of the five terms used to define the LMS.
The LMS Conference / Convention will be held in Indianapolis, June 10-12, 2000. Visitors / observers are welcome. Thre is no cost. The daily schedule for this event is found elsewhere in this issue.
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What? Not another Convention!
Rev. John Erickson, LMS Synod Chairman
Have you heard someone express their feelings about another church convention
in these or similar words? Or, have you found yourself thinking or saying
It does seem that church convention planners manage to schedule their gatherings at the most inopportune times, does it not? There are any number of things - other than another convention - to which I should, or would just as soon, give my time and attention, are there not?
But wait just a minute. Could it not be that one of the main reasons much of the church is where it is today is due to just such an attitude by a great number of the clergy and laity? Many of us came out of church bodies that preceded the ELCA. These were church bodies in which provisions had been made so the clergy and the local congregations could be fairly well represented, and thus have a voice, at the church conventions. If not at the national level, at least this was the case on the district level.
But, when there was evidence that the church was moving away from its historic and stated positions... where were the voices of concern? Not all... but most of those who had some sense of biblical discernment, and who therefore had some legitimate concerns as to the direction the church was taking, stayed home! These were the folks that were needed! Most of the changes that have taken place began in a very subtle manner. It required then, as it does now, some very biblically literate and discerning minds to recognize the error that is behind some of these shifts in doctrine and practice. And what was their excuse(s) for not attending the conventions? They were too busy. The time of the convention was not convenient. If they went and spoke up, they wouldn't be taken seriously anyway - especially if they were laity!
And so... changes evolved... some very slowly and calculated... some more quickly. I, personally, have roots back in the ELC. I was finishing up high school when the merger took place resulting the formation of the ALC in 1960. It has been very interesting to run into some material in the past couple of years that makes very clear the intentional move away from a high view of Scripture back there in the decade before the merger of 1960. I recall my father and a few others who had very serious concerns at that time, but I of course, at that age, had other concerns than the direction of the church. So I didn't pay too much attention to the issues some of these folks raised. And... I will admit... that there were those who were not silent at the time on these matters. But, by 1958,1959, and 1960, it was too little too late. On the other hand, I will always wonder what might have been, had some of these concerns been raised early on, before the minds and consciences of so many had already been lulled into accepting so much that a careful reading of Scripture would have called into question.
And so the church today - and by the church I mean the leadership, the teachers at the colleges and seminaries, the clergy, and yes, also the multitudes in the pew - has come to accept much that only a generation ago would have been unthought of [i.e., The Bible is a human book which the church has the right to rewrite, pick and choose, or whatever to fit the present situation. Worship, the liturgy and music of the church is to entertain and is designed to meet the 'felt needs' of the people. Ecumenism and Inclusiveness, is the in thing. We are all God's family. We can agree to disagree on most any matter in order that we can 'be one.' It is the 'in thing' to celebrate what we have in common, be we Christian, Mormon, Buddhist, Hindu, Native American, Muslim or whatever. We, as with the trends of society, must not only be open to, we ought to be on the cutting edge, of accepting into the full life of the church, gays and homosexuals (individuals and couples) as well as couples living together with out benefit of marriage. Office of the Ministry, now includes the ordination of women... and more recently, of practicing homosexuals].
The LMS is not immune to similar trends. We make the claim that we are biblical... but so did most every church that has moved into some of the areas mentioned above. Scripture is very clear that the enemy we need to be most alert to is most generally the enemy that comes at us from within... the wolf in sheep's clothing. And so, Scripture is very clear on the need for us to be alert so as to "not to be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings" (Heb. 13:9). In order to help in this, we are encouraged to "not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing" (Heb. 10:25). And I believe it can be argued that this need for meeting together is not only for those in the local fellowship (i.e. the individual congregation), but it is also for the family of congregations (i.e. the synod, the church body)... and maybe even beyond this, to meet at times with representatives of other church bodies.
Paul, in Colossians 3:16 speaks also of the importance of meeting together. I realize there may be some differences in the way this verse is translated, but I believe the one reason he sets forth for our meeting together is clear. "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God" (NIV).
We need each other. Not that we should be out spying on each other and looking to find fault in each other. But, we ought to have concern for each other and for our church, to the extent that when we become aware of a practice or teaching that does not mesh with an understanding of Scripture as the divinely inspired, inerrant and infallible Word, or with a plain reading of the Lutheran Confessions, or with what we have set forth as the other three terms with which we describe the LMS (Evangelical, Liturgical, and Congregational), then that concern should be brought to the fore.
It is far easier than we might think to move as an individual, or as a congregation, to become, on the one hand, so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good, or to become so earthly minded, we are of no heavenly good. . . to become so elitist that we completely isolate ourselves from the needy in the world, or, on the other hand, to become so inclusive that there is nothing left to distinguish us from the world.
It ought to be mentioned, that this 'bringing of a concern to the fore' ought to be done in a decent and orderly manner. Our constitution sets forth how this ought to be done. But Scripture too gives guidelines (see Matt. 18; Gal. 6:1; along with other passages in the Epistles). But as we know from Galatians 2:11, there comes a time when a matter must be dealt with, and it must be done quite directly.
We need each other. We need the mutual encouragement that fellowship with those of like mind makes possible (Heb. 10:25; I Thess. 5:11, 14; II Tim. 4:2), etc.). One of the oldest tricks of the enemy of the church, is to get believers to think they are all alone, that they are the only ones. It worked in the case of Elijah (I Kings 19:10,14), and we know it worked also with Luther, and it works in our day too. Maybe you know what I am talking about. Well, our Conference / Conventions give opportunity for worship and conversation that help us realize we are not alone. There are believers, there are congregations, that are very much alike in their beliefs and practices. And if we will be faithful to the responsibilities that are an integral part of what it means to be a member of our church family, then we can be sure that there will be a faithful fulfilling of the Great Commission in the future... and an opportunity for those who understand the true church, to be that church as set forth in the Lutheran Confessions, to experience the worship and fellowship we presently enjoy.
Let us be intentional in seeing to it that 'who we are' is well represented at our annual gathering in Indianapolis, June 10-12.
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by Rev. Mark Dankof
"This is what the Sovereign Lord showed me: a basket of ripe fruit.
'What do you see, Amos?' he asked. 'A basket of ripe fruit,' I
answered. Then the Lord said to me, 'The time is ripe for my people
Israel; I will spare them no longer. . . . The days are
coming,' declares the Sovereign Lord, 'when I will send a famine through
the land, not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing
the words of the Lord. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander
from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not
find it.'" Amos 8:1-2; 11-12
The thinking Christian is perhaps troubled by the prevailing sentiment in our mainstream media, educational, and governmental institutions that America stands at the apex of its political, economic, and military power, unchallenged by any competitors or trends presently foreseen by those given greatest credence as forecasters of the future and shapers of the indices that allegedly define national and international power. Unemployment is allegedly manageable; economic growth supposedly continues apace; the preeminent military strength of the United States, we are told, is more unquestioned than ever, in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union. Nonetheless, in both American Evangelical circles generally, and orthodox Lutheran enclaves specifically, the suspicion remains prevalent, as a counterpoint to Establishment diagnosis, that America's longer term health and survivability as a nation is Biblically evaluated as a proposition suggesting the image of the edge of a precipice.
Much of the more pessimistic evaluation of our present national predicament finds its historical, Biblical support and parallel in the background context of the 8th century B. C. Old Testament prophet, Amos. According to the first verse of the book, the shepherd from Tekoa prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah over Judah (767-740 B. C.) and Jeroboam II over Israel (782-753). 2 Kings 14 and 2 Chronicles 26 tell us that both southern and northern kingdoms were enjoying economic prosperity and an unquestioned period of political and military security. King Uzziah fortified Jerusalem; he subdued the Philistines, the Ammonites, and the Edomites. In the north, Jeroboam II presided over a nation thought to be in a similar position of preeminence. Israel's historic enemies, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Syrians, and the Egyptians, were collectively and relatively weak. Because of these factors, Israel's people were, as described by the introduction to Amos found in the New International Version of the Bible, both "politically secure" and "spiritually smug." This smugness manifested itself in an external prosperity enshrouded in idolatrous materialism, immorality, and societal injustice (2:6-8; 3:10; 4:1; 5:10-12; and 8: 4-6). The nation's eventual endgame would be the God directed, cataclysmic judgment and dissolution of the northern kingdom in 722 B. C. at the hands of a resurgent Assyria, culminating in the destruction of the capital, Samaria, and the dissolution of the nation of Israel, which would mean both the eclipse of all that had been assumed as given during the reign of Jeroboam over thirty years before, and the collective destruction of those who had trusted in the assurances of secular and pagan forecasters as a substitute for God's Word spoken by the commissioned prophet.
In point of Biblical and historical parallel and comparison, we presently live in an age of American Empire, like that mentioned by the prophet Amos in his 8th century B.C. diagnosis of the maladies of Israel and Judah, embodied in an increasingly prevalent "famine of the Word of the Lord." Supposed Evangelicals and Lutherans seek a fatal, deceiving accommodation with a new, militantly anti-Biblical culture which embraces sexual perversion in its increasing variety of forms and expressions. The evils of the abortion industry, euthanasia, assisted suicide, fetal tissue research, and human cloning are now effectively disguised with the Wall Street euphemism, "biotechnology." Television programs which once legitimately provided the laughter of Red Skeleton and Jack Benny now feature frontal assaults on the Trinity and the substitutionary atonement of Christ, as evidenced by the recent late-night "Tonight Show" mockery of Ash Wednesday in a skit which depicted a vested Roman Catholic priest extinguishing lighted cigarettes on the foreheads of his parishoners to the amused delight of a politically correct studio audience. And once great universities and seminaries, dedicated to the "Word of the Lord", now feature academic programs and offerings which routinely attempt to undermine the authority and accuracy of God's Word, both for His church and for the enshrouding, degenerate secular culture which attempts to engulf the people of God in the tides of the spirit of this present, dying age, which takes its cue not from the prophetic and apostolic Word, but from the demonic powers and principalities whose existence is attested to by the Apostle Paul himself (Ephesians 6).
It is this last trend which in the final analysis, is most threatening to the spiritual health and vitality of the people of God and to any collective witness they might bring to the dying world in which they live at this crucial moment in world history before the eschaton of Christ. It is most dangerous when it manifests itself in the teachings and theology of pastors and seminary professors more concerned with acceptability in the wider culture than in the assigned task of "building up the Church" (I Cor. 14: 12). Dr. Wayne Grudem of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School recently noted this most poignantly in his Presidential address to the Evangelical Theological Society's national convention in Danvers, Massachusetts. Making reference to the kudos afforded Wolfhart Pannenberg's second volume of Systematic Theology in a book review proferred by an evangelical journal, Grudem laments:
The review praised it as "a valiant attempt to reaffirm historical Christian faith." But the review said, quite honestly, that Pannenberg "will not accept the historicity of the virgin birth of Christ," "rejects a historical Adam and Eve," "is remarkably open to the theology of evolution," thinks that physical death "is a product of finitude not sin," puts the infancy narratives in the Gospels "in the genre of legend," and does not view Christ's death "as a propitiation of a holy and wrathful God." Then, the review concludes, Pannenberg's work is to be viewed as a "valiant attempt to reaffirm historical Christian faith." Friends, this is not "historical Christian faith"! Why do we think it right to heap praise on such destructive teaching? Is this the kind of doctrine we want our pastors to preach? (JETS, Volume 43, Number 1, March 2000, pages 22-23)
"Men will stagger from sea to sea and from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it," according to Amos. Biblically and historically, a famine of the Word is subsequently accompanied by the judgment of God in the forms of economic want, internal strife, and the destruction wrought by outside military intervention and invasion whether in the 8th century B. C. or in a possibly impending future judgment of God upon the American Empire in the emerging 21st century. Pastors and teachers of the Lutheran Ministerium and SynodUSA can do little, unfortunately, about the emerging threat of Communist China in Panama and in the East; the rumors of war in the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent; the tensions in the Balkans; the latent problems in our economy, state educational system, and system of taxation. But ongoing study and exegesis of God's word under the prayerful guidance and insight of the Holy Spirit will serve to guide our leaders into the deeper, mysterious truths of God's inscripturated, propositional revelation. And these truths, proclaimed in Biblically based teachings emanating from our congregational pulpits and denominational publications, will undergird God's remnant flock in the days of trial and tribulation which may yet lie ahead.
Pastor Dankof is the Vice Chairman of the Ministerium of the Lutheran Ministerium and SynodUSA. He holds the B. A. from Valparaiso University; the M. Div. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; and is presently in study for the Th. M. degree in systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, where he presently works on a thesis dealing with the theology and life of Martin Chemnitz (1522-1586), and the latter's analysis of the Council of Trent. He serves as an occasional guest columnist for the national orthodox Lutheran weekly, Christian News.
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LMS-USA Introduction Pamphlet
Although we have had, and have, much information on our web page, we find
there is still a need for information that can be "hand held." Therefore
considerable information is being edited and will be made available very
soon in an easy to read 'hard copy' format. If you have an interest, or know
of someone who might be interested in such, please contact out national office.
You will find the address on the back page of his newsletter.
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The 2000 LMS Annual Conference and Convention Schedule
The 2000 LMS Annual Conference and Convention
The Fifth Anniversary Celebration of the LMS-USA
June 10, 11, 12, 2000
St. Matthew Lutheran Church, Indianapolis, IN
|Saturday, June 10||EVENT|
|10:00AM||Time for interviews etc.|
|1:00PM||LMS Ministerial Meeting|
|3:00PM||Convention - session #1|
|5:45PM||Convention - session #2|
|7:30PM||Reception at Pastor Spear's Home|
|Sunday, June 11||EVENT|
|10:30AM||Service of Holy Communion|
|2:00PM||Conference - session #1|
|2:45PM||Conference - session #2|
|4:00PM||Conference - session #3|
|4:45PM||Conference - session #4|
|6:30PM||Conference - session #5|
|7:15PM||Time for interviews and/or other needed discussion.|
|Monday, June 12||EVENT|
|8:30AM||Morning Worship Service|
|9:45AM||Convention - session #3|
If you are interested in coming to the LMS Conference/Convention but you
would like further information on the directions to the church, lodging,
schedule, or anything else, feel free to call Rev. Ralph Spears at
1-317-376-8295. Visitors / observers are more than welcome at any and/or
all sessions. There is no set cost or fees. Free will donations will be received
to help cover costs of meals and convention expenses.
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The 2000 Indianapolis Conference Presentations
When the LMS-USA was formed, one of the ideas set forth was that, as a synod,
rather than the annual gathering of clergy and laity merely to attend to
the business of running the church (i.e., election of officers, planning
committees, financial concerns, etc.), our church body should be a forum
for ongoing discussion of matters of theological concern both as it pertains
to doctrine and practice.
Thus, we have met annually in both conference and in convention, and without question, the conference meetings have truly been the highlight of our gatherings. We have had presentations by guest presenters but for the most part we have heard from the most able persons we have within our own fellowship. Such will be the case this year. A number of our own men will present papers on what it means that we are evangelical and the implications of that in our practice of worship and mission.
St. Matthew Lutheran Church
Sunday, June 11, 2000
Topic - We Are Evangelical
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"His Royal Banners Forward Go !" part III
His Banners lead! Who Follow In His Train!
by Rev. Ralph Spears
The first two articles in this series have explored the advance of the Christian
message by today's Church.
The initial article, His Royal Banners Forward Go, was a look at how fragmented the banners (and genda) are of the Church Militant, and how out of harmony the trumpet calls, which could summon the Church to a unified action in these later days.
While in the second article the focus was on the great diversity and confusion, which exists concerning the theology of ministry. The Church seems more ready and better equipped to debate the nature of ministry than to do ministry. All of this, in a time when the fields are as "white unto harvest" as any and the importance of ministry in His name, so vitally important. *
[But first - clarification about one statement in that last article should be made. There was one sentence that seemed to say erroneously, that James of Jerusalem is mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls. It should have said that important research on the Essenes links James of Jerusalem, writer of the Epistle of James, to an Essene community living near the Dung Gate not far from Temple Mount in the early middle period of the first century A.D in Jerusalem. As we know James as a leader had a significant impact on the primitive Christian Church in the Holy City where it is known that he was martyred at the southwest corner of the city wall in 62 AD]
His Banner Reads - MERCY!
Today many understand the Church to be in a fierce struggle with evil and the battle lines firmly drawn between good and evil. Such imagery is reminiscent of the War Scroll of the 'Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness', one of the very first of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in the Judean desert in Cave 1 in late 1947. Borrowing from the last chapter of Isaiah (with possible references to the Psalms and Hosea), this War Scroll seems to envision the army of God drawn up in full battle array against the Sons of Belial, the forces of evil. These 'Sons of Light' carry battle standards or banners emblazoned with heroic themes to lead them to victory, hence the title and inspiration for this series, His Royal Banners Forward Go!
Indeed the true Church needs to be continually fortified that we might "be able to stand against the wiles of the devil". For so Paul describes it in an inspired passage which seems to echo that Scroll as the men of Faith come into contention against "principalities powers and rulers of this present darkness and against the spiritual hosts of wickedness (even) in heavenly places". We might wonder if this would include some current Church officials.
So then what IS written on the Banners of Our Lord that leads us in this battle with nearly eschatological over-tones, that we call ministry?
To choose a single word, would not MERCY be most appropriate? For mercy, or hesed in Hebrew and often translated as 'steadfast love' might best label our banner and standard of operation in the work of the Church. (Yahweh from early times was described as 'merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love'!) As Jesus said,"Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy not sacrifice'" (Hosea) He was not only distinguishing between law and Gospel, He was making mercy, forever, His banner and standard for meeting those of the world with the love of His Father. We might think of this mercy/steadfast love as a kind of industrial strength love that doesn't fade or grow weary or change its stripe under pressure or the ravages of time. Jesus often spoke in this way to the Pharisees who applied a legalistic interpretation which "walked by on the other side" without touching those fellow travelers who lay wounded by the roadside.
But there was something more that He was trying to say. Jesus was revealing the simple fact that we do not possess this ministry. The task of ministry - possesses us! If we are truly His disciples, we follow in His train. Even the ministry of Word and Sacrament is not our exclusive franchise although we (rightly) hold it in highest regard.
This was driven home to me as a young street minister in Cincinnati one blistering hot summer day as I went looking for one of our transients by the name of Joe Perky on the street who had dropped by earlier looking for my help with his friends. Finally locating Perky on a grimy street corner in front of an old pawnshop, I was quite taken by what I found. He had two or three of his fellow bums in line waiting their turn to speak with him. Perky would hear their problems, offer his advice and send them on their way with an impromptu benediction, 'The good Lord bless you 'til I see ya again!' And so in turn with each, it dawned on me that he was hearing confession, offering advice with absolution and sending them on their way with a benediction that would at least - be recognized by Aaron. Perky didn't need my help, he was doing ministry for several who probably wouldn't have come to me or anyone else for 'confession'.
At about this same time there was a peculiar song which seemed to emanate from the murky streets and make this point, "Ah, look at all those lonely people!" It was some weeks before the realization came, that this was the latest Beetles song to the unusual accompaniment of strings. "Where do they all come from? Where do they all belong?" The fields are 'white unto harvest' as our Lord said and we can be overwhelmed by the needs of the masses until we realize that we are sent to individuals, one at a time. Only Our Lord could 'feed' four or five thousand at one sitting!
Even so, many in the crowd misunderstood His gesture of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. And this points up one of the basic truths of ministry to the masses; that we are not a social service agency only, we are the Church. And just as we should not go about saying "be clothed, be fed" - without helping to provide these things from our stores, as the aforementioned James, said, (2:15&16) so, neither do we give up the care and nurture of these people to become a food and clothing warehouse. Here is where many mistakes are made in ministry if this distinction is not maintained and balanced!
Mercy is the banner word for God's reaction to human need. "Mercy and not sacrifice!" As one of our Collects says addressing the Father, "God who shows thy almighty power, chiefly in showing mercy and pity." And so it is the banner of Our Lord in His earthly ministry over and again. Indeed we learn mercy by watching His mercy, restraint and love, in the Gospels; His reaching out to the leper who says, "If you will, you can make me clean." And He says, "I will, be clean" in touching simplicity of action. But the same is seen in the young paralytic let down from the roof as He forgives his sins, to the Samaritan woman at the well, and the Caananite woman who beseeches Him, The Centurion, the woman with the hemorrhage, and the widow of Nain for her son. They are all characterized by His reaction to the young man, in Mark 10:21 "And Jesus looking upon him loved him.." Perhaps it showed more for some than others, for John, the apostle is characterized several times within his own Gospel as "the one whom Jesus loved."
And then there are the parables extolling the need for mercy as in the story of Dides and Lazarus and the servant who had been forgiven the great debt by the king, and the showing of mercy by the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:37).
Finally the showing of mercy is a banner of highest virtue in the fifth beatitude, Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. (Matt. 5:5)
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The LMS-USA is a Biblical, Confessional, Evangelical, Liturgical, Congregational
expression of the universal (catholic) orthodox Church on earth. It is a
'Forum by Subscription.' As a 'Forum' the intent is that there will be an
ongoing discussion of theological issues and concerns among clergy and lay
alike. The LMS-USA meets annually for a Theological Conference and this
publication, besides carrying news of the Ministerium and Synod, functions
also as a vehicle for this continuing dialogue.
For information or to make comment contact:
2837 East New York St.
Indianapolis, IN 46201
P. O. Box 31
Chetek, WI 54728
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