Friday, December 2, 2016

Where to look for the next Luther. . .

Churches, even those who claim the legacy of Luther, are wont to face problems with task forces and blue ribbon commissions and such.  We have come to believe the consensus is the ideal and that the path to truth, justice, and unity come from sitting all interested parties at the table and giving them a question to answer or a problem to solve.  There is nothing really wrong with this but it will seldom produce the kind of ground breaking reform and renewal we so desperately need.  It will give us carefully crafted statements with enough wiggle room to satisfy most and it will tend to give us a result that allows most of the things we abhor enough latitude to continue, if somewhat circumspectly.  But this is hardly the path to unity even if it leads to slightly more uniformity.

Radical reform and renewal come out of nowhere.  Like the prophets of old who showed up without being invited, we cannot legislate nor can we control reform.  It is messy.  There is often blood (sometimes literal and sometimes symbolic in the breach or schism that follows such prophetic intervention).  God pitted the prophet against the priest enough to shake things up when complacency had led to apostasy and heresy.  God chose unlikely candidates without the requisite standing and stature we seek of our leaders today.  Most often they were also unwilling prophets who prophesied only because the Word of the Lord burned within their hearts and upon their tongues.  Their voices were neither heralded nor welcomed but in the wake of their presence, repentance was the fruit and a time, if only brief, of renewal in faith, doctrine, and life.

Whether we as Lutherans like to admit it or not, Luther was such an unlikely reformer.  He was not schooled for this nor trained but arose out of nowhere (called Wittenberg).  He was neither perfect nor was he pragmatic.  He messed up.  He messed things up.  Now, almost 500 years later, even Rome admired his exuberance for grace alone, his commitment to the living voice of Scripture, and his passion for Christ and Him crucified.  It is a good thing when enemies acknowledge that things were not necessarily exactly as the official transcript of history wrote them but a carefully scripted meeting between old adversaries is probably not the venue through which the next voice for reform and renewal will be raised or heard.

Reformers (prophets) seldom reflected the usual expectations of what leadership in the church should look like or act like. These were rule breakers -- not the rules of God but the rules of men by which the churches structured themselves and governed themselves over the years.  They did not do business as usual and their reform was not about laws or rules by which we govern ourselves but about the very essence of what is believed, confessed, and taught.  Men did not raise up these individuals but God sent them at critical junctures of history when the institution was failing the faith and the faithful.

Ecclesia semper reformanda (the Church is always in need of reform or being reformed).  I think nearly everyone believes this.  Benedict XVI does and so does Francis.  Luther did and so do the Lutherans of every age who have claimed kinship with him.  But therein lies the rub.  Benedict and Francis seem to disagree over the shape of this reform.  Benedict follows the older tradition of reform that restores what was lost and reforms what has become correct -- nothing new but a hermeneutic of continuity.  Francis is not so sure.  There may be new things but the new things he tries to characterize as changes not in doctrine but in practice.  This is the very thing that is in controversy about Francis and his attempts to reform practice.  It is the same for Lutherans.  Some (ELCA and some of the LWF variety) believe that tradition is a suggestion and that the Spirit is free to lead the Church past what has been believed, confessed, and taught (even when it is in Scripture).  Others insist that the true character of reform is not departure from but restoration to catholic doctrine and practice (Augustana).  Repentance is, after all, not a turning to something new but returning to what does not change -- the mercy of God.

One more thing.  Prophets and reformers do not raise up themselves.  They raise up Jesus.  They raise up Scripture.  They raise up the faithful witness of the fathers.  Self-proclaimed prophets are not what we need but those whom God raises up with "thus saith the Lord" as their authority and whose faithfulness accords with the full Divine Word.  This is the reformer we need in our own age -- not a self-proclaimed prophet to lead us into new ways but voices from God to restore what has been lost, reclaim what has been cast aside, renew what has grown stale, and reform what has become corrupt.  The issues today may or may not be the same as when Luther was raised up from obscurity but they cry out for more Luthers.  Task forces and blue ribbon committees and commissions will help us sort things out but they are seldom the prophetic voices who will turn us ad fontes of Scripture.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

If you are concerned about Purdue's Lutheran Campus Ministry. . .

Dear Friends, 

I have adapted and revised my original post again to reflect the Indiana District's offer of information and answers as well as some additional information from people involved in Lutheran campus ministry throughout the IN District.  I hope that this revision will help clear some of the air, although I can well understand it may be some time before the hearts of those so invested in the building will be able to put to rest their concerns entirely.  Nevertheless, the District President reached out to me in good faith and I wanted to give his words a chance to balance out the information provided me from various sources from those to whom the University Lutheran Church in West Lafayette is so beloved.  Please read it and address your future concerns directly to Pres. May.

Read it here. . .           Email Pres. May here. . .

In Christ,
Pastor Peters +

What/whose nature?

Reading Romans 1 is always interesting.  There is enough there to offend anyone and everyone.  It seemed rather perspicuous in its reference to the ills of all mankind and each as individual members of that humanity.  Until recently it was not hard to understand what Paul meant when he wrote of "unnatural" relations.  But that was then and this is now.  There is a new Paul to be discovered hidden in the ancient words of condemnation and this Paul, it is claimed, champions the integrity of your nature (even after the Fall).
    [18] For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. [19] For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. [20] For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. [21] For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. [22] Claiming to be wise, they became fools, [23] and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
    [24] Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, [25] because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
    [26] For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; [27] and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
    [28] And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. [29] They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, [30] slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, [31] foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. [32] Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.  (Romans 1:18-32 ESV)
Now that we live in an enlightened age in which we are no longer bound by the constraints of tradition or the ordinary meaning of words, it has become fashionable to describe the nature of which Paul speaks as a personal or individual nature and not a state of creation or all humanity.  So when Paul writes of “unnatural” same-sex sexual relations, he cannot possibly be describing the intimacy of those attracted to the same sex.  These folks are naturally oriented in this way (born not made) and therefore what is natural to them may only appear to be unnatural to the rest of us. 

For those who identify as gay, same-sex intimacy is not “unnatural” -- just the opposite -- relations with the opposite sex are unnatural.  So, follow the logic, Paul is here condemning heterosexual people who “unnaturally” depart from their own kind of sex and homosexual people who do the same.  Like Shakespeare, Paul has boiled sexual morality down to "to thine own self be true."  Sex for Paul is not a frontier to be explored but an identity to which you must be true -- as God made you.  Since sexual orientation is unchosen and virtually permanent, same-sex sexual expression is “natural” to gay and "unnatural" to straight.  So Paul cannot possible be requiring gay people to offend their nature any more than he is requiring straight people to offend their nature.

Ahhhh.  Where to begin?  First of all is a logistical problem.  If you are bi, none of this must apply to you since your nature is flexible (love the one you're with).  If there was ever an advantage to being bi, it is surely this; you are exempt from Paul's condemnations and free to indulge, experiment, and experience whatever feels good.  Because that is exactly what Paul would say, right?

Then there is the problem of "nature."  Is Paul referring to some individual nature or to nature in the sense of God's creative will and order?  Such is the progress of morality, sexuality, and Scripture in pursuit of a Biblical ethic that will sanction same-sex relations and relationships.  Nature is not the creature of the individual but the shape of creation as a whole.  Maybe sin did tarnish the shine of God's handiwork and distort this perfect shape but creation as a whole has not abandoned its distinctive shape since Adam named the creatures and so discovered that the shape of all things was male and female but him.  He was alone.  When God created Eve, Adam exclaimed that this was at last bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.  Adam had discovered not only the shape of creation as a whole but his own lack, which God would repair forthwith, Adam having recognized that he was all alone.  This is, according to those who love to tinker with Scripture, a trivial and colloquial expression of ancient history now thoroughly repudiated.  We have grown past all of this, so to speak.  The command to love has transcended the shape of nature (creation) and replaced it with personal desire and the right to have that desire fulfilled.  The problem with this is that it also unleashes all the perversions still constrained by societies disapproval and leaves the individual to do what is right in his or her own eyes.  In other words, what was once a particularly good definition of sin has become the statement that champions the new found morality of love that has no bounds.

Imagine that, St. Paul. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Living Lutheran -- what is NOT included. . .

THE Lutheran magazine received a name change a while ago.  It is now LIVING Lutheran.  At first I thought it was merely an attempt to refresh a denominational magazine with declining circulation and readership (most are in that same boat).  But I am becoming more and more convinced that it is instead an attempt to focus on what Lutherans do instead of what Lutherans believe.

The November issue has an editor's note on cultivating the habit of being grateful.  Pr Tim Brown recounts his experience in a Lutheran grade school memorizing Bible verses and Luther's Catechism and then shifts effortlessly to the theology of Rob Bell (hardly known as Lutheran friendly).  After some news, retired two star general Howard Stendahl describes how he sees being Lutheran in terms of help to returning vets, racial justice, and the diverse nature of military chaplaincy.  There is a big article on seeing Jesus in the face of refugees (with study guide).  Vets are asked about their stories.  There is a two page spread on a little free food pantry, senior care, interfaith work (Lutheran and Pentecostal congregations sharing space and more), making communion bread, world peace and the Nobel peace forum, what tomorrow's church leaders did on their summer vacation, ecumenical and interfaith campus ministry, dialogue and social justice, giving to the Fund for Leaders, an article on how the Lutheran Confessions unite us (that ends inexplicably with women's ordination), a film review, etc...

What you will NOT find in the Living Lutheran magazine is anything substantive about what Lutherans believe.  It was not always this way for the ELCA denominational journal.  But it is surely what this publication has become.  Perhaps it is a tacit admission that even within the ELCA there is not much agreement on what is believed, confessed, and taught.  Perhaps it is that the ELCA stands further and further from the pale of what Lutherans have always believed, confessed, and taught.  Perhaps it is that the editors see doctrine as bad and service as good.  Perhaps it is that the journal has been directed to make its thrust in human interest stories.  Whatever the reason(s), sinister or benign, this journal is about just about anything but believing as a Lutheran.  Even when there are a few words on Lutheran theological identity, you end up reading about Rob Bell or the ordination of women (neither of which, unless I am greatly mistaken, are addressed in the Lutheran Confessions.

I write this not to condemn the ELCA magazine.  It is well laid out, has good pictures and graphics, and is winsome.  My point is to suggest that what is precisely under fire today is not what Lutherans do but what Lutherans believe.  We are at a severe juncture in history in which the name Lutheran has a confused and general meaning that is further and further distant from our Confessions.  We face a culture less and less aware of Lutheran identity or Reformation history.  We have folks in the pews who know less and believe less like the folks who sat in those same pews a generation or two or three ago.  We need journals that appeal to us but we need even more magazines that will teach the faith, confront us with the tension between what we believe and what the world and our culture affirms, and how to sustain this doctrine and practice in a world increasingly unfriendly to the faith.  We need to use every venue to rebuild a fractured unity and this will not happen by focusing on what we do -- it will only happen by focusing on what we believe, confess, and teach.

There is surely a place for such fodder but no church worth its salt can afford to substitute photo ops and inspirational stories about what Lutherans do for what Lutherans believe.  Lutheran identity will not survive by diverting attention from doctrine to deeds.  Just the opposite.  The Lutheran distinctives that emphasize vocation, spiritual priesthood, and good deeds (ordinarily good works and mercy service to our neighbor) are the fruit of a vigorous and vital confession that is substantive, changeless, and authoritative.  Without this, all the good deeds on earth are window dressing on a collapsing structure of hopelessness.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!

Sermon for Advent 1A, preached on Sunday, November 27, 2016.

St. Paul tells us salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. Do you believe it?  After all we have been here before.  Advent gives way to Christmas then to Epiphany and then Lent and Easter and then summer and fall and here we go again.  It is easy to become complacent.  We are too easily oblivious to the passage of time.  But look in the mirror and we see where time is headed.  None of us is getting younger.  Either Christ will come sooner or we will die.  Either way, Paul is right.  And this is the sober realization for Advent.  It is time to cast off the works of darkness, put on the armor of God, and walk in the Light of Christ.

So today we come to renew our hosannas.  We are here to be reminded that Christ came, that He still comes among us full of grace and truth, and that He will come again to bring all things to their consummation.  Unless we are ready to meet Him, His coming signals death and destruction.  But to those who are ready to receive Him, it is the dawn of everlasting life.

Renewal and repentance are the keys to a life of faith.  Without them we become complacent, lazy, and blind to what is going on.  Recall the example of King David.  David was old and tired.  He had begun to spend his days in bed.  The people around him grew complacent as well.  All except his enemies.  His own son Adonijah chose to carpe diem - to seize the day - and make himself King in place of his brother Solomon.  So he invited his other brothers, Abiathar the High Priest, and Joab the General of the armies, and they became his co-conspirators in a plot to steal the throne.

Nathan the prophet got wind of it.  He told Bathsheba (yes, you got it right, the same Bathsheba whom David killed to know).  She was the mother of Solomon and devoted wife of David.  She got Zadok the priest and Benaiah, bodyguard of David, to come together to protect feeble old David and his line.  But who were they against so many!  They had no army.  All they had was the Word and promise of God. Like us, they wondered if it was enough.

They carried out old David and took Solomon out of the city of Jerusalem, into the Kidron Valley,  They washed him clean in Gehon spring.  They anointed him with oil to proclaim him king and stuck him on David’s mule.  And then they headed back to Jerusalem.  Along the way they shouted to make way for the king.  The people along the way heard the commotion and rejoiced for the new king.  “Hosanna!” they cried.  “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”  The crowd became larger and larger and the voices shouted ever louder.  “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

They grew closer and closer to Jerusalem and their voices louder and louder.  Soon Adonijah and those conspiring with him also heard the noise. They thought it was an army coming to end their rebellion and the people partying turned into a mob on the run.  They ran because the legitimate King was coming.  And what happened?  David died and Solomon the wise brought glory to Israel even greater than  his father David.

Now do you get it?  Satan had tried to steal God’s throne.  He told us God was old and weak and we could become gods. And we listened and believed him. We went to his party and drank the koolaid of his lies until we forgot the truth and lived the lie. But God was not old or weak or distracted.  He revealed Himself and His plan of salvation.  He sent forth a prophet named John who washed the anointed One in the Jordan and proclaimed Him the Messiah King long promised.  And our Lord came, humble, mounted on David’s donkey riding into Jerusalem.

And the people heard the prophet and went out to see who was coming.  They shouted and laid down palms.  They called Jesus the Son of David.  They cried out “Hosanna to the Son of David.”  They knew then that their time of waiting was close to an end.  They ran to the King.  Do we run to Him?

Today, as Advent begins, we add our own voices to the crowd.  Our today belongs to the Lord so that His tomorrow may belong to us.  We do not choose the King.  God has.  We do not define the Kingdom.  The King who suffers and dies for that kingdom does.  The call to us is to repent, to cast off the works of darkness, to put on the armor of God, to walk in the Light of Christ, to wear Christ’s righteousness boldly as the baptized who believe in Him, and to walk not gratifying the desires of the flesh but seeking to walk in the way of God’s commandments.

This is how Advent begins.  God is not dead.  He does not sleep.  He is at work.  Satan has not won and cannot win.  Our hosannas acknowledge the Savior has come, that He still comes to us where He has promised,  and He is coming again to bring to completion all that He began. Like the Israelites of old, we cast off all distractions and run to the King.  We welcome Him who comes in the Name of the Lord.  He who fulfills the Word and promise of the Father is in our midst.  We are not lost.  We are not alone.  We are not doomed to suffer sin and its death forever.  Christ is here!

Our Advent hosannas acknowledge that Christmas has already come.  We wait no more for a manger in Bethlehem to be filled.  We wait for this bread and this wine to be filled with Christ’s body and blood.  We wait for this foretaste for the eternal feast which is coming.  We wait for the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting that Jesus, God’s anointed, has provided for us with His own death and resurrection.

Like the people so long ago, we are moved to hope by the sound of hosannas and announcement of the Kingdom.  Salvation has come.  It has come in Christ born of the Holy Spirit by the Virgin and in the Word and Sacraments that deliver Him to us today.  The night is far gone.  The eternal day is soon to dawn.  Wake up! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord. . . once to Bethlehem of old, still to us every Sunday in Word and Sacrament, and soon as King to rule over all things forever.  The people long ago ran to their legitimate King.  Do we run to Him today?

Wear the clothing of His righteousness.  Put on the armor of God.  Fight the good fight.  Live holy lives.  Love the commandments and do them.  Salvation is nearer today than when we first believed.  In the name of Jesus.  Amen

A priesthood never envisioned as an individual possession. . .

Curiously, the term in Scripture is a royal priesthood and not individual royal priests.  It is a nuance surely lost in world swept up in an individualism that sees faith in solitary terms.  Today it is most common to frame this spiritual priesthood of the baptized in exclusively individual terms.  In his Address to the Nobility of the German Nation (1520), Luther challenged the typical distinction between the “temporal” and “spiritual” orders (lay vs clergy) and reintroduced the concept of spiritual vocation that belongs to all who are baptized into Christ.  Every person through faith, baptism, and the Gospel entered “truly to the spiritual estate” and shared in Christ's priesthood.  Of course, Luther was careful to distinguish this "spiritual priesthood" from the special or sacramental priesthood of the pastoral office.  Luther never derived the pastoral office from this spiritual priesthood nor confused it but insisted that the spiritual priesthood is fulfilled when a pastor is called, ordained, and serves the spiritual priesthood of all with the particular means of grace, the authority of which is conferred upon him only.

Rome also rediscovered and reiterated the common spiritual priesthood of the baptized at Vatican II, specifically, Lumen Gentium:  “The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, in order that through all those works which are those of the Christian man they may offer spiritual sacrifices and proclaim the power of Him who has called them out of darkness into His marvelous light” (cf. 1 Peter 2:4-10).   Understandably, they were even more jealous of the distinction between this spiritual priesthood and the sacramental priesthood, insisting that this was a distinction not simply in degree but in essence.

Luther translator and interpreter Paul Althaus put it this way:  Luther never understands the priesthood of all believers merely in the sense of the Christian’s freedom to stand in a direct relationship to God without a human mediator. Rather, he constantly emphasizes the Christian’s evangelical authority to come before God on behalf of the brethren and also of the world. The universal priesthood expresses not religious individualism but its exact opposite, the reality of the congregation as a community.  This is often lost upon Lutherans and others who claim to be heirs of the Reformation.  Instead it becomes a solitary and individual claim; I am a spiritual priest who needs no pastor or church or anything beyond my own self to be fully Christian and to live out fully my baptismal vocation.  Luther never countenanced such individualism or such arrogance.  Luther and the Lutherans held the pastoral office in highest regard.  What is often overlooked here is the focus of such priesthood.  The spiritual priesthood is directed not internally to the church in competition with the pastor but externally to the neighbor and in the world.

Perhaps it is this to which Pope Francis is trying to draw our attention; if so, it is a noble cause although he has surely done a poor job of communicating it.  That said, this aspect of Luther's teaching remains a bud and has not yet flowered fully for the church.  Too many have tried to pit spiritual priesthood against pastoral office and too many have presumed that this is some sort of egalitarian focus in which everyone gets to be pastor for a Sunday or take their turn in the chancel -- thus fulfilling their spiritual vocation and priesthood.  Missouri had our "Everyone a Minister" faze that still has not died out and given way to the cause of Luther -- who was adamant that God did not need our good works but our neighbor surely does.  Surely this is the genesis of the ordination of women, of women's Sundays in which LWML ladies took over the service, or youth Sundays in which youth led worship or a hundred other variations on the theme.  In confusing the spiritual priesthood that belongs to all with the particular priestly service of the pastoral office, no one should be denied to "take their turn" in the chancel.  In equating the spiritual office with what happens on Sunday morning, it is clericalism to stand in the way of each fulfilling their purpose and preaching or teaching or presiding for a day.  This is not the clericalism that Luther fought against and this is not the spiritual priesthood of which Luther spoke.

We live in a me'n'Jesus against the world kind of popular Christianity in which the church is optional, the ministry is merely a function, and the goal of true spirituality is to play pastor for a day.  In the meantime the world is in crying need of Good Samaritans and there are neighbors in need all around us -- a people and their cause we too quickly assign to the government and some welfare program.  What was once the mark of the church's presence in the world has become the responsibility of the government and the once great arenas of service to the widow, the orphan, the sick, the elderly, the refugee, the hungry, and the homeless have become government services which may or may not be carried out by churches using the government dollar (and playing by the government's rules).  Maybe the unfriendliness of the culture and the government to the cause of church and religion may just be the spark that renews the fire of love that our spiritual priesthood is truly about -- within the venues of home, work, neighborhood, city, nation, and world.  The last thing the church (and God) needs are spiritual loners who believe they have a cause and a right to act like pastors and who are confident that this is the face of I Peter 2:4-10.  What the church needs and the world needs are those who belong to the true spiritual priesthood of the baptized, who live their lives in worship, witness, intercession, and service doing mercy's work at home, in the village, and in the world.  Perhaps what we need to do more often is to read the Table of Duties in the Catechism.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The practices that change the doctrine. . .

According to reports, Pope Francis has chosen to replace all of the members of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship, the larger deliberative body that assists the prefect of that congregation which has in its purview liturgical questions.  Everyone expects a pope to appoint a few new members to every Vatican congregation (a department of the Vatican) but October 28 Pope Francis took the unusual move of appointing 27 new members to the Congregation for Divine Worship -- in effect transforming the entire body into one that appears to reflect his own more liberal bent, certainly one more friendly to Novus Ordo and less supported of Cardinal Sarah, the prefect of that congregation.  While certainly giving the congregation a more international flavor, the new members seem destined to undermine the work of Cardinal Robert Sarah,  a leading proponent of more reverent liturgy and Benedict XVI and his “the reform of the reform.”

While I do not have a horse in this race, it does show a significant pattern for Lutherans as well.  Tinkering with worship is the real means to effecting lasting change in doctrine as well as its practice.  It is reform by the back door but it is a reform (deform) no less effective.  Change what happens on Sunday morning and you change what people believe.  That is lex orandi les credendi at work.  It is both positive, changing for good, and negative, changing for bad.

It has happened in evangelicalism and it has happened among Lutherans.  Evangelicalism has been transformed by the invention of seeker worship, entertainment worship, and personality cults.  The roots once securely attached to Calvinism and Armenianism have evolved into churches unrecognizable by their theological forefathers.  In effect, the transformation of Sunday morning has become the transformation of what is believed.  The same thing has happened among Lutherans.  The borrowing from Protestantism and evangelicals has effectively changed what typical Lutherans believe, confess, and teach.  What no convention would pass has become normative among the many Lutheran congregations who emulate what happens in evangelicalism -- all in search of a methodology that works while insisting that style does not affect substances.

Francis is no fool.  He is determined to transform Rome.  He knows what has no chance of happening officially (remember amoris laetitia) can work when viewed as a simple practice that has been adjusted while affirming in theory the doctrine (which no one can change).

Yet we should not be smugly watching from afar for the danger to any church and to Lutherans is the transformation of doctrine by the seemingly subtle change in practice.  Eventually, the doctrine will be changed and the change will seem perfectly normal and even seem as if it is what we have always believed.  This is how Lutherans became iconoclastic and how Lutheran worship began to be seen as a slightly more liturgical version of generic Protestantism to the point where the weekly Eucharist appeared foreign to Lutheranism, private confession seemed alien to this church, and the rich ceremonial life became a stranger to Lutherans.  While it is tempting to think of this as a stylistic evolution, when happened was not style at all.  Instead Lutheran piety shifted from the means of grace to feelings and the profoundly sacramental shape of the faith became a Word centered faith (almost in opposition to the Sacraments).  Lutherans began to substitute an inerrant Word for an efficacious one, satisfied that if Scripture was preserved it was not so important what king of Scripture was preserved.  That is not to say that inerrancy is foreign to Lutheranism but to ask what benefit is it to keep a Scripture without error if it is primarily a book of information, rules, and history and not the living voice of God addressing His people with His gracious favor in Christ?

What we do on Sunday morning will affect what we believe on Monday morning.  Francis knows this and this is the tack he is using to reshape Roman Catholicism.  We Lutherans may be a little slow to catch on but we had better wake up.  The ELCA has already reconciled the ordination of women to the Lutheran faith so deeply that even former ELCA folks who disdain the CWA 2009 changes in sexuality refuse to open the women's ordination to review.  In the same way, those who remain within the pale of the ELCA have now grow accustomed to same sex marriage and the full GLBTQ agenda and are shocked that Lutherans might object.  In Missouri we refuse to address the diversity of what happens on Sunday morning to what the Augustana insists and in failing to hold each other accountable have laid the groundwork for a Lutheranism that will end up believing like the evangelicalism it mimics on Sunday morning.  Close(d) communion that continues to be affirmed in convention has become a dirty word to some parishes and some regions of our church body and this is ample demonstration that a doctrine which fails to inform practice will become a forgotten doctrine no longer believed.