Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Serving Through the Spirit

Serving through the Spirit
1 Corinthians 12:3-13[1]
  The day of Pentecost is usually a day for us to celebrate what the Spirit of God has done in our lives. But as we have walked through what our Scripture lessons have to say about Easter joy, I find something missing when I look at the church in our day. Many churches are torn by conflict. Others are obsessed with crusading for various political causes. Many of the mega-churches seem like corporations, willing to do anything to prop up the appearance that all is well. And then there are other churches who are just struggling to keep the doors open, or who have given up and are awaiting the inevitable day when they will die. And they are doing that, to the tune of between 4000 to 10000 every year.[2]
   After hearing about the promise that the Spirit would come upon the church to give us the power to carry out our calling to bear witness to Christ, I have to wonder where that power has gone. When you look at the reality that is the church--at least in this culture--the presence and power of the Spirit seems strangely lacking. I have to ask how this can be. Where is the promised power that was supposed to enable us to carry out the mission Jesus gave us?
  Before we start thinking that Jesus has broken his promise, perhaps we should look at ourselves first. Many churches have abandoned the model of how to be the church presented in the New Testament--one that relies heavily on prayer and worship and a deep commitment to discipleship. Perhaps that is too ambiguous, too unpredictable for our liking. And so, in the place of this “spiritual model,” many churches have embraced a “business model” of operating. In the business world, if you want to succeed, you need a well-thought-out business plan, along with a manual of operations with sound policies and procedures in order to guarantee success. As valuable as policies and procedures can be, they are not what gives life to the church of Jesus Christ! As our lesson from the Psalms for today points out, the only true source of vitality is the Spirit of God (Ps 104:30).[3]
  When we look at our lesson from the New Testament, we find that Paul takes an approach that is very different from that of many church leaders in our day. Like the Psalmist, he attributes all growth, all health, all life in the church to the work of God. Now, to be sure, this work is done through the members of the church. But make no mistake about it: the source of all vitality in the church is the presence and working of the triune God. St. Paul says it this way: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone” (1 Cor. 12:4-6). It seems quite clear who is behind the activity that enables the church to thrive.
  But I’m afraid we have forgotten this basic mandate for the life and health of the church. We have gotten so caught up in things like adding programs and slick marketing and worship services choreographed to the minute that we have failed to remember that what brings life to the church is when we do all things “with the strength that God supplies.” (1 Pet 4:11).[4] That brings us back to the fact that God has chosen to accomplish this work through people like you and me. And to do this, he gives us the “gifts of the Spirit,” which as he says are given to each person in the church “for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7). In other words, every single person in every church has some “gift” that is to be used for the benefit of the whole church.[5] I think if we took this concept seriously--really seriously--it would revolutionize the church in our day. For one thing, if we’re engaged in serving the church and the world around us in this way, then we won’t have any interest in fighting the “church wars” that plague all of our denominations and drive people away in droves.
  The clear conclusion of St. Paul’s view of the “gifts of the Spirit” is that for the church to thrive all the members of the body have to share the gift they have been given. We may all have a variety of gifts, but all of them come from the same Spirit and are intended for building up the body of Christ.[6] I think if every individual in every church across this county took seriously the call to serve the body of Christ in this way, we would be astonished at the transformation that would result.
  I think this is one of the lessons that the church has had to learn and re-learn over and over throughout the ages.  We can accomplish nothing of lasting value if we try to do it in our own strength, by our own talent, through our own wisdom. Only as we carry out our service through the presence of the Spirit who is always with us that we can we hope to benefit the body of Christ and the world around us in a lasting way.[7] Only as we return to this biblical model of serving through the gifts of the Spirit, I think, will we see the church in our culture begin to thrive. Only then will we see joy and new life in our churches.

[1] © 2014 Alan Brehm. A sermon delivered by Rev. Dr. Alan Brehm on 6/8/2014 at First Presbyterian Church of Dickinson, TX.
[2] Steve McSwain, “Why Nobody Wants to Go To Church Any More,” Huffington Post Blog October 14, 2013; accessed at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-mcswain/why-nobody-wants-to-go-to_b_4086016.html .
[3] Cf. Jürgen Moltmann, God in Creation, 9-10, 96, 98-103; Jürgen Moltmann, The Church in the Power of the Spirit, 204-5; Shirley C. Guthrie, Christian Doctrine, 296; Emil Brunner, Dogmatics III:15;  J. L. Mays, Psalms, 336-37.
[4] Cf. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics 3.4:603-4.
[5] Cf. Jürgen Moltmann, The Church in the Power of the Spirit, 300-304; cf. also Barth, Church Dogmatics, 4.3:854-59; see also ibid., 859-901, where he elaborates on the various “gifts” or “ministries” in the Church.
[6] Cf. Jürgen Moltmann, The Future of Creation: Collected Essays, 108: “A church which is filled with the Spirit becomes a charismatic community. It becomes the place of ‘the manifestation of the Spirit’ in the fullness of the Spirit’s gifts (1 Cor. 12:7).” Cf. also Barth, Church Dogmatics, 4.3:840; cf. also 1.1:520-22; Moltmann, Church in the Power, 220, 223, 294-95.
[7] Cf. Moltmann, Church in the Power, 65, where he says that it is inadequate to say, as the Reformed tradition has tended to say, that the church is present where there is ‘true proclamation’ and ‘a right administration of the sacraments’. He says, “Both are included, yet we shall have to say more comprehensively: the church is present wherever ‘the manifestation of the Spirit’ (1 Cor. 12:7) takes place.”

Joyful Witness

Joyful Witness
Acts 1:6-14[1]
  As I conclude my exploration of the factors that inspired Easter joy in the first Christians, you might think this is a strange way to do it. I’m afraid there are many in our day who may not associate “joyful” with the concept of bearing witness to our faith. We see bearing witness to our faith as a command, as a duty, as an obligation. That all sounds very heavy, burdensome, maybe even unpleasant. It’s a very different take from what we read in the book of Acts. For the early believers it was a privilege to be chosen as witnesses of the resurrection. For them it was an honor to be able to bear witness to their faith, to “give an answer for the hope” that was in them (1 Pet. 3:15). For them, the role of a witness was one they embraced joyfully.
  So what has happened that something that was so prized, so valued, and so cherished has become something we dread? Many Christians these days would rather be burned at the stake than have to say anything to anyone about their faith.[2] How can this be? I have to wonder where we lost the joy of carrying out our calling to be Christ’s witnesses “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). I think part of the answer is that we have embraced a cultural norm that religion is a private matter, so we don’t talk about it. In fact, for many families religious differences have become such a bone of contention that we have learned to carefully avoid even the slightest hint of a discussion about faith. Unfortunately, that’s true in other areas of our lives as well. We don’t want to take the risk of offending anyone, so we don’t say anything.
  But the Scriptures will not let us settle for that when it comes to our calling to bear witness to our faith. It is true that some Christians have caused more harm than good by their “evangelistic campaigns,” going door to door implying that everyone they meet is going to burn for eternity. And we certainly don’t want to follow that pattern. We believe that a our witness to the gospel must be combined with deeds of compassion that reflect the love of God. But it is a mistake to think that we can just let our “light shine” with our “good deeds” without actually saying anything about the “hope within us” that inspires those deeds. We may not like hearing it, but good deeds without Gospel words fall short of what I think the Risen Christ commanded his followers to make their vocation in life: bearing witness to him.
  I think another problem may be that we tend to suffer from spiritual amnesia. We get so caught up in the demands and stresses of the moment that we forget what our faith has meant to us in the course of our lives. In the process, we have let slip our own spiritual histories, which would give us ample material for giving an answer for the hope that is in us if we paid more attention. That’s really all it takes to be a witness for Christ: being willing to share your story with someone else.[3] It’s not about arm-twisting or even “soul-winning.” Our job is to tell the story of our experience with our faith.[4]
  I’m afraid another reason why we’re less than enthusiastic about this relates to a spiritual problem. Jesus told his disciples that what would enable them to go from being a group of frightened people huddled away in a secret room to being his witnesses “to the ends of the earth” was that “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8).[5] But it seems to me that for the Spirit to empower us to be witnesses to the Risen Christ, we have to cultivate the presence of the Spirit. This is another area where regular and continual personal worship is essential. We cannot hope to be joyful witnesses for Christ without the help of the Spirit.[6]
  I realize that to some extent I may be stepping on toes here. But I believe we have to face the fact that without a vibrant witness the church in our day and time doesn’t have much of a future. If we want our churches to thrive in an ever-changing world, we have to do the one thing Jesus commanded us to do about it: to bear witness to our faith.[7] We have been entrusted with a crucial task: St. Paul calls it the “ministry of reconciliation.” It is the mission of sharing God’s love with those who may not think or feel that God loves them. And the way we do it is by telling the story of our experience of the new life that the risen Christ has given us.  And so I believe that one irreplaceable element in our experience of Easter joy must be the story we share about it.[8]

[1] © 2014 Alan Brehm. A sermon delivered by Rev. Dr. Alan Brehm on 6/1/2014 at First Presbyterian Church of Dickinson, TX.
[2] Cf. Diana Butler Bass, Christianity For the Rest of Us, 133, where she points out that this has been true among mainline churches for decades. She says, “Back in the 1960s, both parents and church school teachers taught us Methodist children that it was impolite, rude even, to talk about religion in public.”
[3] In light of the definition of evangelism in The Book of Order 2013-15 W-7.2001 (p. 145), this may seem to be too simplistic, but in my opinion, the most powerful witness is the one that comes from authentic personal experience.
[4] Cf. Bass, Christianity For the Rest of Us, 134, where she encourages this approach by pointing out that “The entire New Testament is a testimony, a record of experiences that early Christians had with the transformative power of God.” She adds (p. 138), reporting on the experiences of one congregation, that “Our stories ... tell of finding meaning, finding unique selves, and finding God in a confusing and chaotic world.”
[5] While it is true, as R. I Pervo, Acts: A commentary on the Book of Acts, 42, points out, that “for Luke the essence of power is the miraculous, so long as one understands that every manifestation of divine power is a miracle,” this is not the only manifestation of the Spirit’s empowerment in Acts. Pervo recognizes that the whole story of the early church in Acts stands under the promise of the empowerment of the Spirit (ibid., 44). From my perspective this includes proclamation, service, suffering for the gospel, and planting and building up churches. Cf. Shirley C. Guthrie, Jr, Christian Doctrine, 310, where he says it well: “according to the New Testament, the presence and power of the Holy Spirit are promised and experienced precisely in the church’s Sunday-by-Sunday preaching and teaching of the Word of God, its not-too-exciting everyday life, and its ministry to the world.”
[6] Cf. Jürgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation, 278–279: “Deeply moved, we ourselves move, and go out of ourselves. The primal image is the Pentecost story, which tells how the experience of the Spirit turns a crowd of Jesus’ intimidated disciples into free witnesses to Jesus Christ, apostles of the gospel who carry the tidings ‘to the ends of the earth.’”  Cf. also Barth, Church Dogmatics 1.1:455.
[7] Cf. Hendrikus Berkhof, Christian Faith, 417, “If the church exists in the final analysis for the sake of the world, the church will obviously be viewed solely as an instrument for preaching the gospel and for rendering service.”  Cf. also Guthrie, Christian Doctrine, 365, “As Reformed churches (along with others ...) have rediscovered the biblical idea that ‘apostolic’ means sent with a task or mission to fulfill, they are also rediscovering the biblical and Reformation understanding that the apostolic task is given not just to a few people with a special calling but to the whole Christian community and every one of its members. ...the task and privilege of the ministry of reconciliation is given to all.”
[8] Cf. Berkhof, Christian Faith, 326, where he points out that “all the appearances of the risen Jesus, with the exception of those on Easter morning itself, contain mandates for the work of missions which is now beginning (Matt. 28:19f.; Mark 16:20; Luke 24:49; John 20:21-23; 21:15-19; Acts 1:8).”

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Joyful Presence

Joyful Presence
Acts 17:22-31; Jn 14:15-21[1]   
  When it comes to our views of God, it seems that we tend to fall into one of two extremes: either God as a glorified version of Santa Clause or God as the exalted monarch. Some seem to envision God as a kindly, but somewhat comic figure, like George Burns or Morgan Freeman. God is good and cares about us, but is not someone you take very seriously. Others seem to think of God as if they were having an audience with the Queen of England. You only speak to God in certain tightly scripted ways, you address God with “Thees” and “Thous,” and you never, ever touch him. I think these extremes, either an overly casual view of God, or an overly formal view, seem to dominate our ideas about God.
  And yet, while the Scriptures do tread lightly when it comes to some aspects of experiencing God’s presence, in many ways they reveal a God who is both “high and lofty,” who “inhabits eternity,” but also is concerned about and present with “those who are contrite and humble in spirit” to give them new life (Isa. 57:15).  I’ll grant you, that’s a difficult balance to maintain. But if we’re talking about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of the prophets, and the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ, it’s a balance that we have to try to keep.[2]
  Two of our lessons for today observe that balance. In St. Paul’s sermon to the Greeks in Athens, he uses the fact that they had a shrine dedicated to “an unknown God” as an opportunity to proclaim to them the God who must have seemed very strange to them: a God who is both exalted and yet intimately involved in the lives of ordinary people. Paul begins by insisting that this “unknown” God whom he wants to make known to them is “The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth” (Acts 17:24). He is the God who “gives to all mortals life and breath and all things” (17:25). This must have seemed to be a strange God indeed, for although the Greek deities were thought to be exalted and powerful, they saw mere mortals only as pawns to be used however it suited them.
  But this “unknown” God whom Paul seeks to introduce to the people of Athens is a God who cares very much about all creation, humanity included.[3] In fact, the whole reason why this God created humanity was to have a relationship with them. The Apostle puts it this way: “he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, ... so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him” (Acts 17:26-27). The idea is that from the orderliness and beauty of nature, as well as from the mystery of their own experience, somehow people would be able to discern that behind it all stood a creator who loved them.
  And to emphasize the point, he quoted one of their own poets: “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).[4] This was something that most people of his day and time very likely didn’t believe. They believed the “gods” lived on Mount Olympus, beyond their reach, but close enough to meddle in human affairs. But St. Paul presents the God of the Scriptures as one who is intimately involved in human life. As one contemporary observer put it, we live in a “God-bathed world.”[5] The God in whose presence we constantly live is the one who cares for and nurtures all creation.[6]  This God is always as close to us as the air we are breathing.[7] This kind of relationship with God is one that I would say few of the people of Athens would have thought possible.
  Jesus offered the same message to his disciples in our Gospel lesson. In this section of John’s Gospel, Jesus is preparing his followers for his imminent departure. Although he said many things that they very likely didn’t fully understand at the time, after his death and resurrection, these teachings must have been among the most cherished of Jesus’ words. He has told them already that he is going to the Father; here he reassures them that he will not leave them alone. He promises to give them the “Spirit of Truth” who will live in them, but he also promises that his presence will be with them as well. Then he makes what must have been an astonishing statement to a group of Jewish fishermen: when he comes to them they would know “that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (Jn. 14:20). In other words, not only would they enjoy his continued presence in their lives. They would also share with him in the relationship he had with the Father.[8] I can only imagine the look of shock on their faces as he made this amazing promise.
  It seems to me that this is another facet of Easter joy. Jesus and the Apostles promised that through him we can enjoy the constant presence of the God who is as close as the air we are breathing. The idea that we humans could possibly have a relationship with the “Lord of heaven and earth” is one that is just as astonishing today as it was then. And yet it is entirely consistent with the witness of the Scriptures. The promise of our Creator is that there is no place we can go that is outside the realm of God’s loving care.[9] The promise of our resurrected Savior is that wherever we are, he is with us, drawing us into the joy of God’s life and love.[10]

[1] © 2014 Alan Brehm. A sermon delivered by Rev. Dr. Alan Brehm on 5/25/2014 at First Presbyterian Church of Dickinson, TX.
[2] Cf. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics 2.1:477, where he says that the “lesson of Isaiah 57:15” is that “God in His love and for His love’s sake is present to everything and everywhere.”
[3] Cf. Barth, Church Dogmatics 2.1:282-83, where he defines the fact that God is the one “who gives everything life and breath” by saying, “in loving us God has given and gives Himself to us, and gives Himself fully, since this loving is His own being and essence.”
[4] Paul is quoting the 6th century BCE poet Epimenides of Crete. On the presence of God in creation, cf. Barth, Church Dogmatics 2.1:476: “there is no absence of God in His creation. There are in it many forms of the remoteness and nearness of God, and of His coming and going in the full reality of all that is denoted by these terms. There is a presence of God in wrath and a presence in grace. There is a presence in His hiddenness and a presence in His revelation. And in all these are the most diverse gradations. But there is no non-presence of God in His creation.”
[5] Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 61, 78, 90; cf. also Moltmann, Trinity, 104; Moltmann, God in Creation, 5, 96.
[6] Matthew 5:45; 6:26-30; 10:19; Ps 145:9, 15-16.  Cf. also Jürgen Moltmann, God in Creation, 9-17, 98.
[7] Cf. Jürgen Moltmann’s concept of God’s “interpenetration” of all creation; see Trinity and the Kingdom, 39, 104-5.  See also Moltmann, God in Creation, 9; Jürgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life, 161.
[8] Cf. Jn. 14:23: “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”  On this, see George R. Beasley-Murray, John, 258; and Barth, Church Dogmatics 4.3:543.
[9] Cf. Ps. 139. Other Scriptures assure us that God is never farther away from us than a father teaching a toddler to walk (Hosea 11:3), or a mother gently nursing an infant (Isaiah 49:15).
[10] Cf. Jürgen Moltmann, Sun of Righteousness, Arise!: God’s Future for Humanity and the Earth, 102: “It is not just for us that it is important to experience the nearness of God in what happens to us. It is important for God too, for he wants to live among us and on this earth for ever and ever.”

Monday, June 09, 2014

Joyful Devotion

Joyful Devotion
Acts 2:42-47[1]
  Some of us may remember the debate that arose in the days when two working parents became the norm. It was the debate about “quality time” versus “quantity time.” Advocates for keeping things the way they were argued that children needed to spend as much time as possible with a parent. Advocates for having two working parents argued that what really mattered was “quality time,” not necessarily the quantity of time spent with children. As it became more and more necessary for most households to have two incomes in order to survive, that debate seemed to fizzle out. But I think in part the alternatives were always false: children need both. They need “quality time” with parents, but they also need to spend as much time with their parents as possible, assuming the home is a healthy environment.[2]
  I mention this debate to address another assumption that I think equally misses the point. It is the idea that if you go to worship at least once a week, then you’ve gotten your “dose” of God and you’re good until next week. Now, I’m the last person to discount the importance of participating in weekly worship. But the problem is thinking that’s somehow “enough.” It seems to me, that when it comes to the worship of God, “enough” is a category that doesn’t apply. It’s a bit like the idea that there is some level of children spending time with parents that constitutes “enough.” Just like young children benefit from all the time they can possibly have with their parents, so I think we benefit from all the time we can possibly spend in the worship of God.
  I think our lesson from Acts gives us a glimpse of what this might look like. In the early days of the church, after their experience of the risen Christ and the coming of the Spirit upon them, those first believers spent as much time as possible in worship. According to the Scripture, they were continually devoting themselves to worship, spending their time embracing the Apostles’ teaching, enjoying fellowship with one another, frequently observing communion, and praying without ceasing. It’s no wonder that their quality of life was such that “Awe came upon everyone” (Acts 2:43) and they carried out this devotion to worship “with glad and generous hearts” (Acts 2:46).[3]
  Obviously, this recounting of the joyful worship of the first Christians is an ideal that may or may not be possible for us in our daily lives of work and family.[4] And yet, I think it’s important to note that their worship was joyful. I think perhaps here too we may have missed the point of worship. We may think of worship as “obligatory.” Or perhaps we may feel that worship should be more “reverent” and serious than joyful. One extreme example of this was the Puritan practice of having a Tithingman, whose responsibility it was to punish young people who might be so brazen as to actually laugh or even smile in worship. But don’t think the adults got off easy; it was also his job was to see to it that anyone who fell asleep literally had a rude awakening. And he carried a stick to rap them on the head to do just that.[5]
  Of course, that represents an extreme that most reasonable people would not approve these days. But the question of whether joy, smiling, and laughter are appropriate in worship is still a problem for some people. Not to mention more obvious expressions like dancing in worship! And yet, I cannot imagine those first Christians meeting together with “glad and generous hearts” and not smiling, or even laughing from the pure joy of being together and worshipping God their Father and the risen Lord Jesus Christ![6]
  I think this brings us back to the question of quantity of time spent in worship. When worship is something that we do only occasionally or even haphazardly, it will be something unfamiliar, something uncomfortable, and perhaps even boring to us. However, when we make the worship of God something that we do as often as possible, both in Sunday worship and incorporating it into our daily lives, it will become as natural as breathing to us.[7] We may not be able to pray as much as the monastic orders do, but I think most of us can make more room in our lives for worship. There are all kinds of resources available to help us accomplish that.[8] And with worship, the more we practice it, the more we experience the joy that comes from the presence of the risen Lord Jesus.
  I believe that worship is the most important means for cultivating the joy of Easter in our lives.[9] But for that to happen, we cannot confine worship to one hour a week. Rather than filling the empty spaces of our days with what can sometimes be empty pursuits, we can set aside some of those spaces for worship. To do that, it must become a part of the rhythm of our daily lives. When we devote ourselves to worship in that way, we find joy through our awareness that the risen Lord Jesus is with us constantly.[10]

[1] © 2014 Alan Brehm. A sermon delivered by Rev. Dr. Alan Brehm on 5/11/2014 at First Presbyterian Church of Dickinson, TX.
[2] Cf. Ian and Kaye McKean, “Quality Time vs. Quantity Time: what’s most important?,” who say, “When people are thinking of quality or quantity they are not thinking of relationships because these are egocentric constructs.   That means they focus on us, not the child’s needs.   The real question parents should be asking is not quality or quantity, but what does my child need to preserve an emotional connection with me?” See http://www.parentspartner.com/quality-time-vs-quantity-time-whats-most-important/.
[3] Cf. Jürgen Moltmann, The Church in the Power of the Spirit, 315-16, where he argues that the best way to describe the relationship the early Christians shared in their devotion to God is with the term “friendship.” He says, “Friendship is a free association. Friendship is a new relationship, which goes beyond the social roles of those involved. Friendship is an open relationship which spreads friendliness, because it combines affection with respect. The congregatio sanctorum, the community of brethren, is really the fellowship of friends who live in the friendship of Jesus and spread friendliness in the fellowship, by meeting the forsaken with affection and the despised with respect.”  Cf. similarly, Luke Timothy Johnson, “Making Connections: The Material Expression of Friendship in the New Testament,” Interpretation 58 (Ap 2004): 158-171
[4] On the “idealized” nature of this passage, cf. R. I. Pervo, Acts: A commentary on the Book of Acts, 93; and Johnson, “Making Connections,” 162.
[5] See Alice Morse Earle, The Sabbath in Puritan New England, chapters 5 and 6, accessed at http://www.reformedreader.org/puritans/sabbath.puritan.newengland.
[6] Cf. Jürgen Moltmann, The Passion for Life: A Messianic Lifestyle, 72, 73, 74, where he observes that worship should remind us of a celebration of the resurrection, which begins with the “laughter of the redeemed, the dance of the liberated.”
[7] Cf. The Book of Order 2013-2015, W-5.2001 (p. 133): “The daily challenge of discipleship requires the daily nurture of worship.”  Cf. also ibid., W-5.1003: “The rhythm of the life of the believer moves from worship to ministry, from ministry to worship.”
[8] Some of the most helpful are the PCUSA Book of Common Worship: Daily Prayer EditionA Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God; and the ambitious three volume Divine Hours, by Phyllis Tickle, which simplifies the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.  Or you can find daily Scripture readings and Psalms for prayer at http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/
devotions/, or by searching for “Daily Office” on the internet.  PCUSA even has a “Daily Prayer App” for either iOS or Android devices. The volume of material in some of these resources can be overwhelming. I think it's important to remember you have the freedom to select what is meaningful to you, not to feel bound to forging your way through every scripture reading and prayer.
[9] Cf. The Book of Order 2013-2015, W-1.1001 (p. 75): “In worship the people of God acknowledge God present in the world and in their lives. As they respond to God’s claim and redemptive action in Jesus Christ, believers are transformed and renewed.”
[10] Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 158, defines worship as “to experience Reality, to touch Life. It is to know, to feel, to experience the resurrected Christ in the midst of the gathered community.” But for this to truly become our experience of corporate worship, he recognizes that we must “learn to practice the presence of God daily” (ibid, 170).  Cf. also Diana Butler Bass, Christianity for the Rest of Us, 171-183, where she discusses various ways mainline churches have experimented with transforming worship into the experience of God rather than  reflection about God.