My wife loves making lists, because she loves checking things off her list. Striking through task after task brings a real sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Nothing beats the feeling of checking off that last item and heading for a well-earned rest. But there is always that one item – that stubborn one that is always there, yet never removed, never finished.
Some jobs simply never end. Some, such as road construction or cancer therapy, never end because the work progresses more slowly than the growing need. The pace of the work cannot keep up with the demand for it to be complete. But there are other jobs that never end because it is their nature to be undone, incomplete. Laundry work is the paradigm for this type of work.
Laundry is never done. You may wash the last load and fold the last dishrag and smugly congratulate yourself in your victory over dirty clothes, then in a flash your family appears bearing those loads they have been holding back for “such a time as this.” And, thus it starts all over again. Laundry is never done. By definition, as long as we live in this fallen world where we are no longer naked and not ashamed, laundry is ever-awaiting. In our household, “laundry work” is a ready metaphor for any job or experience in life that is always being done but never getting done.
The Reformers of the Sixteenth Century, famously included the reformation of the church in the category of ‘laundry work.’ The Reformation was not an event, but an iteration. It is in the very nature of the church to perpetually undergo reformation. Prior to the return of Christ and the final judgement, there is no golden age to which we can point and say, if only we could live in those times the church would be pure. From the beginning of God’s Covenant people, the church has been in need of reformation. Ecclesia reformata semper reformanda, ‘the Church reformed, [and] always reforming’ was the Reformer’s motto.
Always Reforming! The church is always in need of correction, sanctification, renewal, discipleship, gospel preaching, the faithful and diligent use of the ordinary means of grace. The marks of the church imply as much — faithful preaching of the Word, faithful administration of the Sacraments, and church discipline. The Reformation of the Church is not an event, it is ‘laundry work.’ That is, until the day when the church descends from heaven – holy, radiant, finally and fully prepared to be the bride and wife of the lamb. For now, the church must be ‘always reforming.’ But a day is coming when faith becomes sight and every promise, every ‘yes and amen’ in Christ, is fulfilled. Then the church will at last be all she has been created to be. All brokenness and blemish will be gone.
Her beauty, her perfect fellowship with her Beloved, and her indescribable life, so beautifully captured in Revelation 21:9-22:5, are the hope to which we press “with every grace endued.” Knowing that a day is coming when the laundry work of reformation will end, we press on with the work of always reforming. Scripture commands us, “let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
Have you grown weary of a church that is always reforming? Or of the arduous work this reformation demands? Has the friction of always reforming caused you to grow weary of doing good? Have you chosen, either practically or actually, to excommunicate yourself, unwilling to press on toward the hope of a radiant, pure, and holy church? Have you become such a severe critic of the Lamb’s bride? A commenter rather than a communicant? Have you have lost sight that, even in her time of sanctification, she is glorious, radiant, and live-giving?
Throughout time the church has been an Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda. But a day is coming when the church reformed and always reforming will “com[e] down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel… And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
Until that day, may this vision of the end, teach us to love the church and live within it. Hymnwriter, Samuel Stone expressed this tension well in the final verses of his beloved hymn, The Church’s One Foundation.
‘Mid toil and tribulation, and tumult of her war,
she waits the consummation of peace forevermore;
till with the vision glorious her longing eyes are blest,
and the great church victorious shall be the church at rest.
Yet she on earth hath union with God the Three in One,THE CHURCH’S ONE FOUNDATION, SAMUEL J. STONE.
and mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won:
O happy ones and holy! Lord, give us grace that we,
like them, the meek and lowly, on high may dwell with thee.
Join us this Reformation Lord’s Day, as we examine Revelation 21:9-22:5 and consider a day when the church will no longer be always reforming.
We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock for worship. Get directions here or contact us for more info. You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube.