The meaning of the word "cold" was brought home in a powerful way last Monday when the mercury failed to reach 7 degrees for the whole of the day. Snow was being reported in some unusual places for Melbourne. I paused to ponder the impact of that on those who could not afford heating, or even proper clothing and shelter.
It is also a reminder of the meaning of phrases such as "the cold shoulder", a "cool reception", and a "cold stare". When we are on the receiving end of these, we long to be in other places where there is a warmth that makes us feel at home.
Someone recently mentioned the feeling they had when visiting another church and being ignored. When asked by their friend to stay for a cup of coffee, they declined, having felt the cold treatment for too long. It is a reminder to us of the importance of being warm to one another - and in particular those who are not known to us. It can be easy to assume that because we think that we have seen a face before that the person feels happy and welcomed in our midst. It is the same with our neighbours and work companions, and members of our local clubs.
I remember someone summing up the story of the prodigal son with the words, "there's always a welcome" - a reminder of its importance to God. May we be found as a warm welcoming community: remember that we all come as strangers sometimes.
July 16, 1995