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Hallo again to all.

The weather has been erratic where we live. Temperature variations of more than 15°C have occurred from one day to the next or even during the day, confusing morning preparations. The difficult is made easier, to a point, by some sort of coat. Light jackets, rain slickers and anoraks, winter parkas, cloaks, and ponchos keep the elements from us, while sport coats, blazers and waistcoats add dignity to almost any outfit.

A friend of ours who takes effort to dress smartly was recently on a business trip and reason brought him to take his suit jacket to the dry cleaners. The jacket was subsequently lost, leaving our friend feeling incomplete for the duration of the trip. It had finished both his look and part of his identity. And of course, it had kept him warmer in the unpredictable weather.

A filthy or torn coat can leave one looking homeless, dishevelled, or uncaring. A smart suit or sport jacket, by contrast, adds a look of success, much as a modern trench coat, while coats covered in fur or rhinestones proclaim a desperation for attention. Military surplus coats worn daily imply taking oneself too seriously. Tweed is academic. Long tapestry coats or coats with buckles and high collars often look anachronistic.

Coats are clothing items that go beyond merely keeping us warm and dry. They become a badge, a visual part of our identity. Nearly every occupation that marks its practitioners with a uniform, such as police, chauffeurs, and band leaders, uses a coat as a major and identity-proclaiming part of the uniform.

From the cloaks worn in antiquity to the first overcoats in the medieval era to the wide variety we have mentioned, coats warm, dress, and mask. They may hide or accentuate the form of the body, or change the entire feel of person or item. A ship that is cloaked cannot be spotted and a coat of makeup can turn an ordinary face into something beautiful, ethereal, or grotesque.

Today, much of the Anglican world recognises Good Shepherd Sunday, which reminds us of sheep, which bring immediately to mind their wool and the garments — usually cosy coats and hats nowadays; wool shirts and undergarments are mostly an anachronism. But there is an additional step. We are not just protected by coats from the sheep's wool. We are protected by the Shepherd. Wolves in the clothing of a sheep being an entirely different issue. A wool coat, however cosy or smart, can only protect us against certain storms. For the next level of protection, we oughtn't sport just something from the sheep, but something from the shepherd. A warm place to hide when scared and to look for confidence.

For now, we will put on our black trench coat over a cardigan jumper to leave the house in the morning, ready for removal by midday. Knowing that the Good Shepherd is protecting us whether we requested it or not. When he gets a chance, our friend whose coat went missing ought to have a few words with Him about the coat going missing.

See you next week.

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7 May 2017

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