Sunday 25 July

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Almighty Lord and everlasting God,
we beseech you to direct, sanctify and govern
   both our hearts and bodies
in the ways of your laws
   and the works of your commandments;
that through your most mighty protection, both here and ever,
we may be preserved in body and soul;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Ecclesiasticus 38.24–34
 The wisdom of the scribe depends on the opportunity of leisure;
   only the one who has little business can become wise.
 How can one become wise who handles the plough,
   and who glories in the shaft of a goad,
who drives oxen and is occupied with their work,
   and whose talk is about bulls?
 He sets his heart on ploughing furrows,
   and he is careful about fodder for the heifers.
 So it is with every artisan and master artisan
   who labours by night as well as by day;
those who cut the signets of seals,
   each is diligent in making a great variety;
they set their heart on painting a lifelike image,
   and they are careful to finish their work.
 So it is with the smith, sitting by the anvil,
   intent on his ironwork;
the breath of the fire melts his flesh,
   and he struggles with the heat of the furnace;
the sound of the hammer deafens his ears,
   and his eyes are on the pattern of the object.
He sets his heart on finishing his handiwork,
   and he is careful to complete its decoration.
 So it is with is the potter sitting at his work
   and turning the wheel with his feet;
he is always deeply concerned over his products,
   and he produces them in quantity.
 He moulds the clay with his arm
   and makes it pliable with his feet;
he sets his heart on finishing the glazing,
   and he takes care in firing the kiln.
 All these rely on their hands,
   and all are skilful in their own work.
 Without them no city can be inhabited,
   and wherever they live, they will not go hungry.
Yet they are not sought out for the council of the people,
   nor do they attain eminence in the public assembly.
They do not sit in the judge’s seat,
   nor do they understand the decisions of the courts;
they cannot expound discipline or judgement,
   and they are not found among the rulers.
 But they maintain the fabric of the world,
   and their concern is for the exercise of their trade.
How different the one who devotes himself
   to the study of the law of the Most High!

Psalm 74
    O God, why have you utterly disowned us?
   Why does your anger burn
      against the sheep of your pasture?
    Remember your congregation that you purchased of old,
   the tribe you redeemed for your own possession,
      and Mount Zion where you dwelt.
    Hasten your steps towards the endless ruins,
   where the enemy has laid waste all your sanctuary.
    Your adversaries roared in the place of your worship;
   they set up their banners as tokens of victory.
    Like men brandishing axes on high in a thicket of trees,
   all her carved work they smashed down with hatchet and hammer.
    They set fire to your holy place;
   they defiled the dwelling place of your name
      and razed it to the ground.
    They said in their heart, ‘Let us make havoc of them altogether,’
   and they burned down all the sanctuaries of God in the land.
    There are no signs to see, not one prophet left,
   not one among us who knows how long.
    How long, O God, will the adversary scoff?
   Shall the enemy blaspheme your name for ever?
      Why have you withheld your hand
   and hidden your right hand in your bosom?
      Yet God is my king from of old,
   who did deeds of salvation in the midst of the earth.
      It was you that divided the sea by your might
   and shattered the heads of the dragons on the waters;
      You alone crushed the heads of Leviathan
   and gave him to the beasts of the desert for food.
      You cleft the rock for fountain and flood;
   you dried up ever-flowing rivers.
      Yours is the day, yours also the night;
   you established the moon and the sun.
      You set all the bounds of the earth;
   you fashioned both summer and winter.
      Remember now, Lord, how the enemy scoffed,
   how a foolish people despised your name.
      Do not give to wild beasts the soul of your turtle dove;
   forget not the lives of your poor for ever.
      Look upon your creation,
      for the earth is full of darkness,
   full of the haunts of violence.
      Let not the oppressed turn away ashamed,
   but let the poor and needy praise your name.
      Arise, O God, maintain your own cause;
   remember how fools revile you all the day long.
      Forget not the clamour of your adversaries,
   the tumult of your enemies that ascends continually.