Isaiah 43:1-7 (New Living Translation)
1 But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. 2 When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.
…. because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you.
5 “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I will gather you and your children from east and west. 6 I will say to the north and south, ‘Bring my sons and daughters back to Israel from the distant corners of the earth. 7 Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them.’”

This is one of those words that is so meaningful and yet defies simple translation or even explanation. For the Welsh Hiraeth is one such very special word. It is I suppose a word to be ‘felt’ rather than technically understood. This word type is found particularly among the Celtic tongues and similar cultures. At its root it speaks of longing, of a pull back home, of yearning, a deep yearning that has a kind of unsatisfied hole, it is a hope, an energy that reaches through the ‘mean-time’ to ‘another-time’.

The painting shows a vibrant expression of Newtown and the River Severn. Around the end of October through November, salmon move toward the end of a journey that has brought them all the way from Canada. This is a long journey made by longing – HIRAETH. Just think of what they have gone through to get back home to Mid-Wales, vast seas, cruel oceans, persecuted by those who see them as a tasty snack, finally reaching the British Isles. The next part of the journey is virtually an uphill struggle, against strong forces, strong currents, in rivers in flood or rock bottom, rocks, weirs and dams. But the strong yearning pulls them on.

The sermon this morning made me think so much of the homecoming of the salmon. ‘When you go through the rivers of difficulty’ – ‘You are precious, honoured & loved’ – I will bring you back from ‘the distant corners of the earth.’

For me living in Newtown is like coming home again. The journey has felt like HIRAETH … hardly seeming possible at times as the years went by and yet an awareness of a pull, a yearning.

This painting is a joyful celebration of ‘tough times, effort, dreams, yearnings against great odds, uphill struggles’, it is coming home on a secular level but speaks more strongly of a bigger picture …. Some of the salmon have got smiles on their faces!