In short, these folks refuse any sort of piety whatsoever -- except a mental one. They would insist that Lutheranism is a faith without a piety and that the reformation war was basically a battle over piety. They are wrong. Their constant poo-pooing of a recognizable piety is weakening the Lutheran faith and turning it into an intellectual exercise. Yet the weird thing is that a lot of these folks read Max Lucado (and all the other evangelical authors), listen to contemporary Christian music radio, and read the generic how to magazines of evangelical Christendom as if these were fully consistent with Lutheran faith and identity. They refuse every vestige of catholic piety in favor of an evangelical piety slanted to a non-sacramental theology. I recall one of these folks telling me that they read Harold Senkbeil and wondered what on earth he was talking about. In the next sentence he was telling me about a great article on youth ministry in the latest issue of Group magazine.
So we are left with a Lutheranism that hums the music of others, that reads generic Christian literature, that prays the prayers of evangelicalism, and that tolerates only reluctantly the sacraments. In this Lutheranism, we have jettisoned every outward manifestation of our evangelical and catholic heritage and the most profound aspect of our piety is prayer, everyone holding hands in a circle telling God what we "just" want. I am not trying to make everything I do or think mandatory for Lutheran piety but suggesting that there are legitimate aspects of a Lutheran piety which we should acknowledge and encourage.
- Lutheran piety is centered in the means of grace (Word and Sacrament). Lutheran piety realizes and rejoices in the God who comes to us hidden yet accessible in the water of baptism, the living voice of His Word (read, preached, and heard in absolution), and, especially, the heavenly food of His body and blood in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. These concrete places where God has placed Himself are the anchors of our faith and our life in Christ as the baptized people of God.
- Lutheran piety flows from the Divine Service on Sunday morning in which we confess and are absolved, where we gather to hear His Word read and preached, and where we receive together the body and blood of Christ... AND Lutheran piety flows back to the Divine Service as source and summit of our faith and life as the baptized people of God.
- Lutheran piety mandates no outward gestures, practices, or ritual forms but rejoices in the evangelical and catholic heritage and in the privilege of these church usages which, though not demanded, are salutary and consistent with our confession (everything from kneeling to ashes to crossing yourself to the church year to vestments, etc. We welcome these and use them both in Christian liberty and sober reflection as they show externally the faith spoken on our lips and believed in the heart.
- Lutheran piety rejoices in the gift of music and receives this privilege from God as it was intended -- primarily as a means of expressing what we believe, confess and teach (saying back to Him what He has first spoken to us). We honor music as the hand maiden to the Word and we acknowledge that its content is to be a vehicle of the Word and only when it is this servant of the Word can it also include the faithful and joyful response of the Christian. Lutheran piety is expressed in both an appreciation for the arts in service to the Gospel and for the role of art and beauty as a way of teaching and helping us appreciate what God has given to us in Christ and our faithful response to that gift.
- Lutheran piety remembers that in baptism we are given the gift of vocation and Lutherans celebrate this worship, witness, prayer, and works of mercy as the high and holy calling of the baptized. Lutheran piety sees the domain of our service to God as including most prominently our service to our neighbor. We are mindful that although certain callings are especially noble (church work vocations), the life of the laity is not second class but the very sphere in which the baptized carry forth the works of God to spouse, children, family, friends, neighbor, employer, community, and nation.
- Lutheran piety rejects every usage of good works as cause or reason for our justification and yet rejoices and confesses that good works flow from faith and are marks of the work of the Spirit within us. We speak of good works and encourage one another to good works both as part of our common life within the church and our care for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.
- Lutheran piety refuses every attempt to turn private confession and absolution into a rule to be satisfied and yet rejoices in this gift of God through which the burdens of our hearts are relieved, our place within the community of faith restored, and our lives directed to the fulfillment of that baptismal calling. Lutheran piety is neither ashamed of nor embarrassed about this godly practice rooted in the words of Jesus and practiced faithfully throughout Christian history (though restored from its abuse during the Reformation).
- Lutheran piety remembers the distinction between the kingdom of the church and the kingdom of the state yet also remembers that we are members of both and we have responsibilities to both. We are citizens and Christians not as competing or conflicting identities but as the baptized people of God living in but not of the world, doing His bidding as He has called us within the framework of the relationships we have in both kingdoms.