The practice of proof texting works like this. You have something you want to say and then you do a concordance search of Scripture passages to back up the opinion you have already formed. It is a terrible way to do theology. It is a terrible way to decide what belongs in worship.
The context of this quote is often lost upon those who would turn this passage into a principle of worship. In other words, less is more and no one should judge you for not following the lectionary or wearing vestments or using the liturgy or abandoning catholic ceremonies and church usages... What matters is faith alone and everything else is just window dressing. Does the passage not say that this is all debate over shadows -- things that belong to the fringe but not the substance of the faith and of worship? But is that what Paul is saying?
Never mind that the context infers that this was a Colossian problem, Judaizers who were holding Gentile Christians and Jewish Christians to the rigid expectation of the ceremonial and moral law of the Jews. Never mind that Jesus' complain was not what was done in the Temple and synagogue but rather how it was done (without faith in the heart). Never mind that Jesus never once in word or practice suggested that the worship of the Temple or synagogue was less important or not important. Never mind that no one else in the New Testament has ever pitted external act against faith but rather lauded the faith that shows itself in the piety of worship and prayer, service and good works.
The whole point in bringing this up is how easy it is to use a proof text to justify a predisposed opinion. The one I am addressing is the idea that ceremony clutters up, distracts from, and is inherently antagonistic toward the true worship of Spirit, truth, and faith. For Lutherans this often translates into the idea that, yes, we are liturgical, but we are not too liturgical... yes, we follow the liturgy on Sunday morning but we interpret the rubrics to minimize the ceremonial of the (dare I say it) mass... yes, we wear vestments but we don't like them... yes, we follow the church year but that does not necessarily inform the preaching or the hymnody we choose... yes, we are formal but so casual about our formality that most anything goes (from coffee sipped through the service to the choice of whether you want to stand, sit, kneel, sing, chant, speak, pray or follow along -- or NOT...
Minimalism is a constant threat to the Church of the Augsburg Confession -- minimal catechesis, minimalistic worship practices, minimum of what needs to be believed to commune, minimum of what needs to be agreed upon to practice fellowship, etc... Some insist that Lutheranism is more in danger from those who insist that the Lutheran denial of abolishing the Mass is more than a perfunctory claim than it is from those who are ready to give up and give in on any liturgical identity to our Lutheran Confessions.
It is unmistakable that those who do not know us will believe we are catholic when they see what happens on Sunday morning. That is not because we have too many ceremonies but because that is how Lutheran looks in practice, how our Confessions define what takes place on Sunday morning, and the principle by which we approach "externals". The Lutheran course was not to empty the Mass of everything external and anything that might be declared "catholic" but rather to restore what was missing in Rome -- the sacramental direction of the entire action, the faith of the heart that acts out in an external way what we believe and confess, and the full measure of our participation in this mystery of Christ among us (eating and drinking and not merely watching).
In the end St. Paul is no friend of those who wanted to transform the worship of the Church so it looked less formal, less ceremonial, and more in common with the culture around us. No, St. Paul insists that freedom always expresses itself for and not against. St. Paul would find no comfort on Sunday morning where personal preference is the defining feature and where a minimalistic spirit ruled the day. He challenged those who insisted upon the performance of ritual and ceremony in place of faith and not those whose faith moved them to action, to duty, to reverence, and to awe in the Divine Service.
Lutherans have got to stop proof texting our way into non-denominationalism on Sunday morning, acting as if not abandoning the Mass does not necessarily mean we keep it either. This is doing nothing but confusing the people who watch us. If we say it is the body of Christ, how does that shape what we do and how we respond to Christ's presence? If we say the Word of the Lord is not only true but efficacious, then how does that shape what we do and how we respond to that Word? If we say baptism now saves us, then how does that shape what we do and how we respond to the baptismal encounter? Proof texting our justification for looking and acting like Methodists or Baptists or the non-denominational mega church down the road has not helped us one bit. In fact, the lie has deceived us about who we are and what we do for so long, the reverential worship of faith expressed in ceremony and ritual that confesses Christ actually makes us uncomfortable. No amount of Bible passages chosen to justify our predisposition against being who we are will fix this error. Only repentance. Only faith. Only honesty of confession and practice. Period.