Dr. Roy Honeycutt, then president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was at Carson-Newman College to preach a campus revival during my senior year. I remember very little of what he said except that in one service, he did preach from the 28th Chapter of Isaiah. The verse that has stuck with me all these years is verse 20: “The bed is too short to stretch out on, the blanket too narrow to wrap around you.” I think this verse has stuck with me because it is just so very true. What it is more uncomfortable than a bed that is too short, unless it is a blanket that is too narrow. What is more pleasant than a comfortable bed and warm blanket on a cold night?
We cannot ponder such a question without being mindful of the many people who do not regularly, if ever, enjoy the simple pleasure of a comfortable bed and warm blanket. I was recently reminded of those who have no place to sleep and no blanket to keep them warm while watching the trailer for the upcoming movie about the life of Michael Oher, The Blind Side. Oher grew up on the streets of Memphis, literally raising himself. In the clip from the movie, Oher’s adoptive mother is getting him settled into his new bedroom. He says, “I never had one.” She says, “A room of your own?” He says, “A bed.” The young man had never had a bed of his own.
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To be without bed or blanket is a hard thing, especially when you consider that one of the things that we all have to do every day is to sleep. To have to sleep in less than restful conditions is not really rest at all. The prophet Isaiah creates just such an uneasy picture to describe the relationship between God and those he is preaching to. For those who have strayed from their covenant with God, life is as unpleasant and as frustrating as a night spent in a bed too short, trying to stay warm with a blanket too narrow. This is what life will be for those who led Israel to excessive indulgence and away from justice and mercy.
A blanket is a small thing unless you don’t have one when one is needed. A blanket given may seem like an insignificant gift, but to receive a blanket when one is cold is no small thing. Neither is it a small thing to give a blanket in the name of Jesus. In so doing, followers of Christ put flesh on the idea that the church is the body of Christ. The church being the presence of Christ in a world full of restless people, that all too often ignore their worn out souls, that have found no rest in a bed too short with a blanket too narrow, means offering a different way of ordering life. Giving a blanket to someone who is cold becomes both an act of faith and a word of testimony. It is an act of faith in the life and teachings of Jesus. It says that we believe that if he taught us to pray “. . .thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven…” then we believe that it is coming.
Giving expresses that belief and bears witness to it. God is at work in our world and God has invited us to join in the work of announcing the reign of God in our lives and in our world. Whether we are giving blankets to the homeless in our city, dollars to send workers to the uttermost parts of the world, or our prayers for the peace of neighbors near and far, we are bearing witness to the reality of the coming of the kingdom of God.
The kingdom of God is coming. Let us give ourselves to it cheerfully and sacrificially so that the presence of Christ might be made real in a world that grows colder each day. Let us live in the light of his love showing the way with our words and actions, the way to warmth and rest.