...that seems to afflict folks nowadays is about where final confidence is reposed. I think that those who take their faith seriously are faced with two options: you can rest your final confidence in the outward communion of some Church (and hope that you happened to pick the right one!) or you can rest your final confidence in the promises of God's Word.
God's Word says: "Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." God's Word says: "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved." God's Word says: "This is my body given for you, for the forgiveness of sins." God's Word says: "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain them, they are retained."
Are these promises of God's Word reliable? Do they mean exactly what they say?, Or is there a hidden clause that runs behind them: PROVIDED you are in the communion of the one and only true Church of Christ, for only there do the promises of God's Word hold true for you.
To be a Lutheran means fundamentally to say: the promises of God's Word hold without any hidden clause. They mean exactly what they say and the Church is to proclaim and hold them out for all for the salvation of the world.
It always strikes me as odd how agnostic people become once they run in that hidden clause. Then they don't know who is not church. Then they don't know whether the promises of Baptism hold. Then they don't know whether the Body and Blood of Christ are eaten by those who venture out simply trusting the Words themselves. What I want to know is how do they know that they have chosen correctly about the Church??? Does their own capacity for self-deception not give any angst? I know it would give me a great deal of angst if an ecclesiastical reference had to be run into the promises of God's Word.
Instead I can with utter and joyful confidence open my mouth to receive the Body and Blood of the Eternal Word made flesh and know that it is given to me for the forgiveness of my sins (not a hoped for, possibly someday forgiveness, but a present and active forgiveness). Instead I can look at the font and recall the Word spoken over the water that promised me an eternal inheritance and gave the gift of union with Christ and daily death to sin. Instead I can confess my sins and feel the weight of the hand on my head and hear the joyful good news that is as certain on earth as it is in heaven: "I forgive you."
Dr. Nagel put it like this: "the church is at point number 2; it lives from the receiving end of God's giving." It's when the church gets moved to point number 1 that things begin to wobble - to become uncertain and ecclesiastical agnosticism ensues. My suggestion: just trust the promises of God's Word to you. They are the anchor of the Church. The Church is not THEIR anchor.