However, we live, confess, and serve in a time in which "adiaphora" is mistakenly taken to mean: "God doesn't expressly command it; therefore, I/we don't have to do it." This mistaken notion of "adiaphora" has led us into the "Judges mindset" of everyone doing what's right in his own eyes.
But if we Lutherans take the Augsburg Confession at all seriously, we may want to repent of our mistaken notion of liturgy as "adiaphora" modernly interpreted. No, God has not dictated a specific form of liturgy, but He has indeed seen fit for 20 centuries to have His Church hand down liturgical forms that faithfully confess Jesus Christ and His eternal love of saving sinners by forgiving them and restoring them to life with Himself.
In fact, we might even say that the liturgy, a.k.a. "church ceremonies," is indeed a matter of doctrine. Augsburg Confession, Article XV, makes this bold statement:
Our churches teach that ceremonies ought to be observed that may be observed without sin. also, ceremonies and other practices that are profitable for tranquility and good order in the Church (in particular, holy days, festivals, and the like) ought to be observed (AC XV:1).This is confessed in the Augustana's "Doctrinal Articles," not in the section of disputed articles on abuses. To say it another way, to be Lutheran *means* to use the ceremonies, such as "holy days, festivals, and the like"--a.k.a. liturgy--handed down by the Church.
So, the Church's liturgy is not, it would seem, a matter of an individual Lutheran pastor's discretion as to whether or not he will use it! Rather, the "church ceremonies" (liturgy) "ought to be observed," that is, the ones that can be "observed without sin." And what is the real issue in which ceremonies "ought to be observed"? Article XV continues:
Yet, the people are taught that consciences are not to be burdened as though observing such things was necessary for salvation. They are also taught that human traditions instituted to make atonement with God, to merit grace, and to make satisfaction for sins are opposed to the Gospel and the doctrine of faith (AC XV:2-3).What does this mean? Clearly, observing the Church's liturgy does not make one right with God or earn His love and forgiveness. However, observing the Church's liturgy does, most certainly, proclaim that divine love and mercy to us and trains us in the ways of faith and godliness.
So, the point of the liturgy is not "liturgy for the sake of the liturgy." Rather, the point of the liturgy is faithfully to confess the mighty deeds of our Lord's salvation and to keep us centered in them. And for this reason, observing the Church's historic liturgy (as opposed to the forms of American evangelicalism/Pentecostalism) is a fundamental matter of our Lutheran confession of the faith and quite essential to the Christian faith and life, even to the mission of the Church.