I was having some printer problems on my office computer and just about went nuts trying to figure out what was wrong. I deleted and reinstalled until I was blue in the face. I tinkered with settings until I was sure that I had screwed up everything. The printer would not recognize the paper inside it. When I was finally ready to take the printer and give it a good toss on the church lawn, I found two small little software switches -- one that was on the printer and one on the printer que on the computer. When I reset them to the default position, alas, my problems went away and my printer and my printer que were on speaking terms again. More than merely communicating, they positively meshed together as if they were meant for it. They continue to speak fluently and they listen to each other well, also. I am reborn at my desk!
I have no idea why the things got changed. I do not recall doing anything specific. But everything that goes wrong on a computer is usually user error so I will take credit for the problems (even as I now trumpet my ability to "fix" what I "broke"). One day I went to hit [PRINT] and nothing happened. Something was running. The icon showed me something was happening. The status indicator said it was printing. But nothing was happening. No paper with toner on it was coming through the fuser. Nada. Nothing. I acted as if everything was happening but after a while I could no longer fool myself. Despite the indicators that said something was happening, I had to admit that something was wrong. In the end, the "default" position is not only a good place to start but often the place to return to when you have problems.
So it occurs to me that perhaps we in Lutheranism, or at least Missouri, might learn something from my computer experience. The problems we have been having (and we have been having them despite what some want to admit) might benefit from resetting the position to the Lutheran default. Now I will admit that there are those who disagree with me -- some who wish to move to a completely different platform and operating system (mainline Protestantism, evangelicalism, etc.) and others who think we need to reboot the whole system (sounds good for a computer but how do you restart a church body?). I offer another suggestion -- we return to our default positions and start again from there.
I suggest that we in Missouri and those in the ELCA simply start back at the Lutheran default -- the Confessions. This might mean that we must, for a time anyway, ignore some of the things we have said and done (usually in the name of progress but often to respond to crisis) and simply begin with the Lutheran theological default position. Instead of arguing constitutions and by-laws or statements or theological opinions or even the writings of our sacred but more recent founders, I think we need to go back to the Concordia and read what we claim to believe, teach, and confess. We do not need to read them through the eyes of Walther or Loehe or Reu or Schmid or Krauth or Schmucker or any other name you choose -- we could but lets not. Lets begin with the words themselves -- the primary sources. I do not mean to suggest that we should ignore the context -- we must consider the church into which these words were penned and presented. But lets also agree not the historical criticism in which the method becomes more significant than what the documents themselves say.
I suggest that we in Missouri and those in the ELCA start back at our liturgical defaults -- you could put in nearly everything from the Formula Missae to the Deutsche Messe to one of the 16th century church orders. You could but it would be an argument that would never end -- where do we begin. Here I would suggest that Lutheran bodies have published "official" hymnals and that these should represent our liturgical defaults. Though some get all rabid about TLH and many in Missouri love to hate LW, I really do not care if it is TLH or LW or LSB that is used but the liturgy should be from one of these "official" books which the Church has claimed as her own, determined to be "pure," and commended for use by her congregations. As far as that goes, I would also suggest that we do the same with hymns -- lets go back to the Lutheran default of the hymnals that we have published and marked with our names as representing officially and liturgically what we believe, teach, and confess.
I suggest that we do this for 10 years -- aaaaahhh, some of you are saying that is too long. Ten years in the span of history is but a blink of an eye. Let us take a decade at the default position and see where that leaves us. It is my firm conviction that it could not do us much harm -- and it would be far better than where we find ourselves today: theologically and liturgically divided, almost unable to speak together because we speak different vocabularies, and sufficiently vague or convoluted about what is Lutheran that just about anything goes (literally). Lets try the default position for a decade and see where that might lead us -- unless we were wrong about the Confessions and our liturgical books and hymnals, this is a faithful place to start and represents a careful and consistent evangelical and catholic position. So, even though we stray from the hymnal here and there and I have my own particular heresies I am fond of, I am willing to fore go my own independence and my "right" to be peculiar in favor of the Lutheran default position. Now if I could just convince the other 20,000 congregations or so and 25,000 Pastors.... hmmmmm, I guess that means Holy Week is going to be busier than I first imagined!