It would be humorous if it were not so sad that Lutherans live with the lie that the Reformation were about the freedom to ditch vestments, lectionary, liturgy, reverence, ceremony, and the like. Adiaphora has come to mean whatever and Lutherans now resist every impulse of what was once normal among us in worship and piety. Ample research has gone into the deception that a conservative Reformation is really a radical one and that Luther's appeal to conscience therefore justifies everyone's preference for what is meaningful and speaks to their soul on Sunday morning. In the end, like Rome's battle, this is not simply about things liturgical but a battle for the soul of the Churches of the Augsburg Confession. Are we who our confession claim us to be or are we who we feel like at the moment? To the progressives anything and everything that might be misunderstood or not appreciated by the outsider who enters our services for the first time could and should be discarded in the cause of Christ. I have had it put to me that crassly: would you keep chanting or vestments or reverence even if it meant somebody might reject the Gospel because of these things? Really? The confessionals among us spend too much time warring over page 15 in TLH or Setting 3 of LSB against the other two settings as if it were impossible to use the newer rites with any doctrinal integrity (along with conflicts over lectionaries, etc...). Meanwhile Lutherans is in the battle for its soul -- with liberals on one side who love the forms (stripped of their masculine pronouns) but who don't bother believing the words and evangelicals on the other side who keep trying to turn the Divine Service into a holy variety show that entertains and saves. In the end, we have our own pews emptied by age and the failure to catechize and our own crises of what is believed, practiced, and how it is paid for.
Let us be honest. The biggest Roman Catholic Church in the world are those who used to be Roman Catholic but no longer go to confession or mass. They claim a membership which is hidden even to them. The biggest Lutheran Church in the world are those who used to be Lutheran but no longer attend the Divine Service or see any difference between Lutheranism and any other generic Christianity devoid of sacramental life and creedal integrity. A pox on both houses! This is the fruit of a failed catechesis that taught the faith as if it were imparting head knowledge instead of a baptismal vocation that can and must be fulfilled in our life together around the Word and Table of the Lord. Lutherans are not Baptists in formal dress nor are we evangelical wannabes. Both of those are false identities that betray the central Lutheran claim to be catholic in doctrine and practice -- the genuine catholics! Rome is suffering because they built a house of cards created by the impression that they created Scripture and can invent things to bind men's consciences (from purgatory to the treasury of merits to the good works that contribute to your salvation). The salvation of both is found in the same place -- the Word of the Lord that endures forever. This was surely Luther's dying hope -- not that Rome would become Protestant but that it would be reborn the attention to the Word of God. This was surely Luther's dying fear -- not that Lutherans would become Roman Catholic but they would fail to be catholic and in so doing would forget that their life is formed, shaped, and empowered by the Word of the Lord that endures forever.
I will admit to the pipe dream that perhaps the Reformation was ongoing and its work within Rome was not stalled and that its expression within Lutheranism was to live out fully our confessional claim of catholicity. I am a dreamer. I admit it. But that is where I live. . . in the dreams of what could be if we all lived by the Word, font, and Table of the Lord.