Come and explore the meaning and different aspects of the Welsh word ‘hiraeth’. In todays episode we focus on finding the way home. This episode is the fifth episode of a 7 part series. You can find the subjects of and the links to the other episodes at the end of this blog post.
WATCH THE VIDEO
Find the Hope Cymru Youtube channel here.
The world wants to go home, but the world cannot get home, nor can it make its home here and now, no matter how hard it tries, because it is still away from that home for which it was made- feeling the homesickness, grief and yearning for the loss of that world to which we cannot return, our true home.
Through the people and places of our past, that old world of the deeper past, in which we were made in overwhelming love and kindness to be brought into the life, that the Father, Son and Spirit have always enjoyed, where we belonged, were known and loved, the great romance and adventure, calls to us still.
G K Chesterton, once said that there are two ways to get home; one to stay there, the other to leave and walk around the whole world before we finally come home again.
Our way home has been a long one, going everywhere else and only now beginning to realise where we are.
Is there a way home?
THE SIDE OF RIGHT
The 1938 Halloween radio broadcast of H G Wells ‘War of the Worlds’, performed by director of the Mercury theatre, Orson Welles, famously announced;
‘We know now that in the early years of the 20th century this world was being watched…With infinite complacency people went to and fro on the earth about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their dominion over this small spinning fragment of solar driftwood, which by chance or design, man has inherited out of the dark mystery of time and space, yet across an immense imperial gulf… intellects, vast, cool and unsympathetic regarded this earth with envious eyes and slowly and surely drew their plans against us….’
Although we act at as if this world is all there is, we have never fully been able to close the door, to the possibility, that is something else, somewhere out there and that we are not alone in the universe after all.
We always like to flatter ourselves and imagine, that we are on the side of right. Even the very worst of us thinks so.
‘I will rise from the grave and the world will see I was right’ said Adolf Hitler.
We all think that we are a goody.
But what do we imagine anything else out there would be like? It would be very different to us- alien- and would be hostile and malevolent, cruel and sadistic, less than human and out to get us.
What would happen if they out there were somehow to come here? They would come to destroy us and our way of life, to enslave us and conduct horrible experiments upon us, topple our civilisation and turn this world into some grisly torture chamber.
The very thought scares us, of some alien juggernaut out there somewhere, hurtling towards us. If there is anything else out there at all it must be bad; if it has a problem with us, that is its problem. If it does come, we will all have to pull together and fight back to protect our way of life, as our hero arises from among us.
Why do these stories resonate with viewers around the world and make hundreds of millions in the Box Office?
Because they show how we feel about the real world, we think that we are the goodies and on the side of right. If there’s anything out there higher up, above this world bigger, older or more powerful, they could not have any problem with us, if they do, that’s their problem.
AND THEN THERE WAS CHRISTMAS
On a dark and lonely hillside in the middle east, just over two thousand years ago, while a small group of shepherds watched over their flocks at night, into this dark world, a real invasion actually took place, by beings from another and higher realm of reality, more complex and intelligent than our own, before whom even intercontinental ballistic missiles are like water pistols.
What did they see as they looked down on this world from a distance?
Not the myopic haze, that poor Bette Midler rather naively pictured, but a world in which over a billion do not have enough, in which there are many many guns, bombs, diseases and hundreds of millions of hungry mouths to feed.
There was much reason for the shepherds to be afraid that night.
Then the angel spoke words of great comfort, that ushered in a new era in the history of the world, and have rolled on down the centuries ever since.
‘Do not be afraid I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people, today in the town of David a saviour has been born to you he is Christ the Lord.’
These majestic warriors from above were not coming to make war but waving a white flag, were coming in peace announcing the best news ever.
The very Person that first made the worlds, that we had gone far away from and are lost and far from home, had not been waiting for us to make the first move, or expecting us to meet him somewhere in the middle, but had come to where we are, making the first move, and the second and the third, as he ran to meet us.
He was leaving His home to join us where we are in the far country, lost and in exile, to bring us home.
At Christmas the real God was prepared to really be bigger than us in an incredible way, not only having always lived, knowing all things, having power over everything- but the real God, took it all in, all the war and crime, the injustice and oppression on the outside and the greed and lust, bitterness and pride on the inside.
And still He chose to really be bigger, the bigger man, to not hold it all against us or to leave us to ourselves, but took pity upon us and had compassion and while the stars moved, angels sang, people from near and far, rich and poor bowed and the animals kneeled, God the Father sent his Son, from his home in glory above to come down into Bethlehem’s manger, to cast his lot in with us forever.
The King who first sent us away, was doing the unthinkable, and coming to join us in exile to bring us back again to Himself.
THE JORDAN RIVER
As a boy he stood in the temple in Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph had been worried that the twelve year old was lost, but he reassured them that he was in his Father’s house and about his Father’s business.
He was the only one of us, who knows where he really is, he was not lost but had come to seek and save the lost.
The years passed and on Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry, announces that the Lord is nigh, awake and harken for he brings glad tidings of the king of kings.
Thousands came out to John, from hundreds of miles around, confessing their sins they were baptised by him in the Jordan river.
Hundreds and thousands of people confessed the worst things they had ever done, the things that they had kept locked away for years, all now being brought out into the open, as fountains of tears flowed down into the water of the river.
‘I’m sorry, I killed a man, I’m so sorry that I committed adultery, I stole, I lied, I cheated, I’ve tried to change but can’t, there is something deeply wrong with me and messed up about me, I can’t stop losing my temper, telling lies, being proud, being jealous.’
Those people were at rock bottom, far away from that life for which they were made.
Was there any chance for the people down in the Jordan, at rock bottom and far from home, unable to help themselves?
That day among those standing in the river, broken and ruined, someone else appeared among the pressing throng.
The only one who could have really stood up on the bank and looked down on everyone else, always good and true and pure, did not cast the first stone but rather quietly and humbly made his way past the religious people, looking down on others from the bank.
He had come down from much higher into this dark world, not to condemn it but to save, and would go much further down yet even than the dirty waters of the Jordan river that day.
John tried to deter him, shocked that he should come down among those in the river that day.
He knew that he was not one of them but utterly different, how could he cast his shadow here, who is the light of the world.
But Jesus gently replied to John let it be so now, it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness, this was the very reason that he had come down, he was prepared for all that this meant.
He was ready to say, I will take responsibility for them all, I am responsible for it all, and to blame, it was all me. I will pick up the pieces for that murder and theft, that pride and bitterness and do all that needs to be done to make it right, as He put his arms around them all.
He would later tell the story of a man travelling between two cities that was attacked and left for dead by robbers, whom others left on the roadside until a man from another land, the land that he had been accused of coming from, stopped and helped the poor man and bound up his wounds and took him to a place of safety, leaving a deposit for his care until he should come again.
He told other stories; of a shepherd who had lost one of his hundred sheep, a woman who lost one of her ten coins and a father who lost one of his two sons.
‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘father, give me my share of the estate’. So he divided his property between them.
Not long after that the younger son got together all he had, set off for a far country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.
So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
When he came to his senses, he said ‘how many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death. I will set out and go back to my father and say to him father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son, make me like one of your hired men’.
So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him.
He ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘father I have sinned against heaven and against you. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’
But the father said to his servants, ‘quick bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it.
Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found, so they began to celebrate.’
Jesus who told this most famous and moving of all stories, was himself the One who had joined us in the far country to pay our debts and to bring him back once again to his Father’s house.
He had left his home in glory and his Father’s house to go further out than anyone else has ever gone, to pay the price for all of our sins, so that He could find us again and bring us home.
He has been looking for us, for ever so long, each one of us, not giving up until He has found us, wherever we are.
Outside the city of Jerusalem, on the hill called Calvary, his precious blood was shed as he died in our place to wash away our sins and to bring us back, all of us, even the very furthest away, back home.
‘He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.’
On the hill of Calvary, three men were dying upon Roman crosses. It was the worst possible way to die, naked, in shame and agony mocked by a hostile crowd, as life slowly and agonisingly drained from their bodies. On the sides thieves, men found guilty of crimes who were now enduring their punishment under Roman law. In the middle on the cross between thieves, Jesus of Nazareth. One of the criminals hurled insults at him, with everything going dark and drawing to this horrific close, the only energy that he had left was spent cursing the man beside him.
And yet not far from him there was another man, another thief, guilty of the same crimes and maybe even worse with his life also fast ebbing away. He knew that everything was coming to an end that it would soon be over for him. He knew what he had done, what kind of man he was, that no one would miss him and that the world would probably be a better place without him and that there was nothing happening to him that he hadn’t brought on himself.
And yet far from joining in with the other thief, he called out to stop him. He knew that he was getting what is life deserved, but as he looked across at the man also hanging beside him, he saw all the difference in the world between this man and himself.
This man was not getting what his life deserved. He saw the one man in all history who had no skeletons in his closet, who had been all that man had been meant to be, the only real man in the world of shabby and small failures, who had burst as sunrise on a dark and weary world.
And yet he hung there silently enduring all that was done to him without resisting or retaliating. Between himself and this man stood an infinite gulf. Whatever the reason he was going through this, it was not for his own crimes but for some other deeper hidden reason known only to himself.
This thief knew that within moments he would be gone, his name would be forgotten by his family and friends and that life would go on without him, the birds would still sing and people will go about their business and season would follow season as if he had never lived at all. It was too late for him to make amends, and too late for him to turnover a new leaf.
And yet as he looked across at the other man, this man did not seem to be drawing to an end at all. Far from it, it almost looked as if this man was in the height of his glory that this was his proudest and greatest moment, almost as if this was his coronation and his taking his throne. All that would come of this would be good.
This would not be the end of this man, he would not just die and stay dead, something strange and wonderful was happening as this man went down death, which was making the earth shake and go dark, as if death itself was scared of his coming, and that this death, his death would bring about the death of death itself.
Something would happen that would change everything else forever. This man had everything ahead of him, an infinite future in life and glory on the other side of suffering and death.
And there hanging over that terrible abyss, with darkness looming before him, death and the grave ready to swallow him up forever, it was that the thief began to wonder, to dream; ‘I’m so scared so lost, so afraid, I wish I could do things differently, could be a different person, could live and not die, could be made new. Is there any hope for me or is all hope gone?
Oh that that man’s destiny could be mine as well, that he might give me a share in his future and somehow take me and protect me and keep me safe even in death, and take me through to be with him where he is.
Could there be a way that if everyone else forgets me and my name is blotted from the earth in disgrace, that he might remember me amidst all the glory that is in store for him?
And in the last remaining moments, as his breath became shallower and faded he called out; ‘Jesus remember me when you come into your Kingdom.’
It was his last chance and there his life hung in the balance.
And then all at once, the man beside him, the man whose name is Jesus, the friend of sinners who had come down in the world to seek those that were lost, spoke and replied to that poor dying thief’s words with inexpressible mercy and goodness, promising, that today you will be with me in paradise.
Yes, I will remember you, I will not forget you, I came for men just like you, I came to save you from your sins freely and to share my wonderful life with you, this very day you will not die and be gone forever but I will take you safely to be with me, where you will be always with me, in paradise.
Jesus’ very last words from the cross, were words of homecoming, as He made the way back for us all from the far country into His Father’s arms, ‘Into your hands, I commit my Spirit.’
It was all done. Everything that had to be done to deal with everything that had been done wrong and was wrong had been done and was finished.
Jesus had gone further out than anyone, to die for us, and in our place and to bring us back once again.
There is no one who has gone beyond his reach and power to save.
THE NEW CREATION
On Good Friday, at Calvary, Jesus died, his side was pierced the earth shook, the sun was switched off as Jesus went down into that dark abyss of death, from which no one has ever escaped.
His body was taken down and laid in a borrowed tomb.
There is a good reason why no philosopher, king, religious leader or god of world religion has ever willingly tried to go this far, to go down into death, because there is no way back.
But then on Easter Sunday morning, as his friends huddled, sullen and defeated in the closed room, suddenly the women burst in telling of how they had gone to his tomb and that it was empty, that an angel had met them and told them, not be alarmed, ‘he has risen, just as he said’, terrified and amazed they had run back and on the way, he had met them.
The glorious reality began to dawn; the heavy stone, the seal of the most powerful empire of human history, the soldiers and the might of Rome had been put in place to say, no entrance, but could not say no exit.
From behind those small things, a far greater power had been at work, that had tossed them aside is nothing.
It had only been a borrowed grave, because He had not intended to stay there very long.
They began to join the dots of the enormity of what was happening.
Jesus had been in control all along and had willingly entered into this great struggle with death itself, having borrowed our death and sins, and taken it all and sunk down under its weight, to destroy death itself from within and swallow it up in victory, bursting out the other side, not just coming back to this old life again, but blazing a trail out the other side to immortality and indestructible bodily resurrection life that would go on forever and ever.
The question mark over him cast over his identity at the cross, had been answered once for all, as God the Father owned him as his true and very son before the whole world, saying as he walked from his own grave; ‘arise oh death of death and hells destruction, my glorious son in whom I am well pleased and now more than ever.’
As he walked out of his own grave a new kind of human life was begun, which made all the pettiness, selfishness and pride that we imagine is what ‘it is to be human’, no longer what it is to be human, but only part of an old and passing life which will soon be gone forever.
As he walked out of his grave, he began a new kind of life on the other side of death of goodness, selflessness and love, for each of us to be born again into.
It was the beginning of the new creation. For it was that Sunday, the first day of the week, the eighth day, that the One who first founded the galaxies, who had at the first overcome the darkness, now rose from the darkness of death to begin a process that will be finally completed when everything in all the universe is set right, when he comes to share his new life with the cosmos and usher in his new creation.
‘This is the final result of our survey of saviours. When we first set out on this quest we found ourselves in the midst of a mighty marching host, but as we have pressed forward on our way, the marchers, company by company, have been falling out of the race. The first to fail were the swordsman, the next the archaists, the next the futurists, the next the philosophers, until at length there were no more human competitors left in the running. In the last stage of all, our motley host of would be saviours, human and divine, has dwindled to a single company of none but gods, and now the strain has been testing the staying power of these last remaining runners, notwithstanding their superhuman strength. At the final ordeal of death, few, even of these would be saviours, have dared to put their title to the test by plunging into that icy river, and now as we stand and gaze with our eyes fixed upon the father shore, a single figure rises from the flood and straightway fills the whole horizon. There as the saviour.’
The world wants to go home, but the world cannot get home, nor can it make its home here and now no matter how hard it tries, because it is away from that home for which it was made, which has been lost, whose loss we grieve and yearn for with homesickness, all our lives.
But a way home has been opened up, not by any of our efforts, but by Him coming to us.
Jesus did not give up on us, or wait for us to go to Him, but came after us, all the way and went to hell and back, to bring us back, to bring us home.