I found this through a facebook posting of a friend of mine — another great post from Pastor Peters’ Pastoral Meanderings blog.
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We were continuing our way through the Augsburg Confession in my Sunday morning study and we had just ended the first section (Articles 1-21). Then before beginning Article 22 we read:
Inasmuch, then, as our churches dissent in no article of the faith from the Church Catholic, but only omit some abuses which are new, and which have been erroneously accepted by the corruption of the times, contrary to the intent of the Canons, we pray that Your Imperial Majesty would graciously hear both what has been changed, and what were the reasons why the people were not compelled to observe those abuses against their conscience. . . For Your Imperial Majesty will undoubtedly find that the form of doctrine and of ceremonies with us is not so intolerable as these ungodly and malicious men represent. . . nothing would serve better to maintain the dignity of ceremonies, and to nourish reverence and pious devotion among the people than if the ceremonies were observed rightly in the churches.
I asked simply do you think this is true today… The answer was silence. This was not the first time we had made our way through the Augustana since I have been here but we sometimes forget what the Confession actually says. We dissent in no article of the faith from the Church Catholic and we maintain the dignity of the ceremonies [of the Church Catholic]. (capitals from the Book of Concord web site)
Lutherans have gotten too comfortable in their Lutheran identity as Protestants, who did not so much rebel against innovations and abuses but against the whole idea of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic faith and its consistent practice. We have grow too secure in our denominational identities and not secure enough in our Confessional identity. We have grown to think of ourselves as conservative Methodists or liturgical Presbyterians or high church Baptists when the Confessions remind us that we are reformed catholics. The whole genius of the Lutheran Reformation was lost to the Radical Reformers who insisted that Luther and his cohorts did not go far enough while they insisted the others went too far. And we have forgotten about it as well.
I am not speaking here to ceremony or ritual but to how we see and understand this church of ours called Lutheran. Certainly Walther and the Saxons were scandalized by what had happened to Lutheranism in America and went so far as to refuse to borrow Lutheran church buildings for their services (choosing instead to use the Episcopal cathedral in St. Louis). This was not for the trappings of it all but a refusal to be identified with the kind of Lutheranism Lite that flirted with Protestant America and only reluctantly admitted their marriage to the Lutheran Confessions and the liturgical identity which flowed (still flows) from those Confessions.
I am amazed at how casual so many Lutherans are toward evangelicalism, fundamentalism, and the mainline Protestants in America and how their hair stands up on the back of their necks toward Rome. Before you rush to hit the comments button I am not advocating that we belly up to either buffet but feast from the riches of our own diet of confession, creed, liturgy, hymnody, and sacramental piety — one which is thoroughly Lutheran and thoroughly evangelical and catholic in the best sense of those terms.
It amazes me how tough it is for folks to find a Lutheran congregation in which the liturgy is used and hymns are sung from the hymnal. I know because my parish sends out dozens of families every year to the various parts of the nation and the world and they complain back that they have trouble finding another “Grace” [code word for Lutheran parish that is unapologetically Lutheran in belief and practice). I have seen families who left for 3-10 years and move back only to have been desensitized to this Lutheran identity of faith and practice by a congregation of our Synod flirting with evangelicalism or some other generic non-Lutheran identity.
Sure, I know that there are a few parishes that might seem more Roman than Rome out there but they are so few as to be insignificant in this discussion; so I turn my attention mainly to those whose very identity reflects a dissent from evangelical and catholic belief and practice.
It is NOT that Lutherans like me are Romanizing or in love with Eastern Orthodoxy. I am not. But what I do appreciate is that we speak more a common language than the current gurus of church life in Mars Hill, Saddleback, Willow Creek, Lakewood Church, and the string of others so influential on our Pastors and our people. I will tell you up front that I feel very little in common with the Southern Baptists, Methodists, Church of Christ, Nazarene, and non-denominational (or generic churches who hide their denominational affiliation). I do not speak the same language and our identities and piety are rooted and grounded in very different realities. Yet, there are times when I feel like I am just as out of step with many of the larger and more influential parishes of my LCMS District and Synod.
The statement in the Augustana that prompted our discussions was declarative. It was a simple statement of who we are as Lutheran people, where we stand, and how we live together around the Word and Sacraments that are His gifts and define us as the Church. Yet, truth to be told, such a statement may not declare who we are or how we see ourselves today. And that, my friends, is the heart and core of the problem…