Daily Worship

The Holy Spirit’s Compassion

James Cathcart March 01, 2023 1 2
Image credit: Unsplash
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Luke 4: 14-30 (NRSVA)

14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’ 23 He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your home town the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.”’ 24 And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town. 25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

It was evening and there was a pub across the way. One of the patrons, somewhat the worse for wear, was stumbling around outside. After a moment I realised he had. had a spectacularly bad idea. He was attempting to catch a pigeon. But the unflappable bird, figuring that pickings around the pub were too good, would simply not fly away. His pursuer was ungainly and moving slowly. The two figures circled and lurched round the precinct mimicking one another.

I don’t know why he had got it into his head to catch a pigeon. It’s such a bizarrely awful idea. But there he was. And then it happened. He caught the pigeon.

Now this was of course: A Truly Bad Move. One should not grab pigeons. And this seemed finally to be dawning on him as he stood confused, unsure what to do next. The pigeon didn’t know what to do either, the unimaginable having happened. And then the man lifted his arms into the air and set the bird free and it burst into the evening sky. It was a bizarrely moving sight as he watched it soar upwards, letting it go.

I didn’t know the man’s story. I only saw this little vignette. But the Holy Spirit would have witnessed it too and cared deeply and beautifully. Drunkenly chasing a pigeon around a precinct seems like an inflection point in your life. There’s that bit before you’re stumbling after a pigeon around a precinct and then the bit after. It was a tragic-comic scene of a broken picture. A man with a spark that could be lit into a wonderful blaze was instead chasing a poor pigeon.

The Holy Spirit is not a good luck charm for Christians. The Holy Spirit is someone in and through and in the midst of all of humanity in all our vivid beauty and brokenness. The Holy Spirit is listening to those for whom life has spectacularly backfired and is speaking words of good news, of release, of restoration, of freedom. Oh Holy Spirit, help us to see with compassion, like you do.




Holy Spirit,

Help us to embody

some fraction

of your empathy

and insight

as we interact with the world around us today.


Lent Disciplines


We begin by focusing on ‘place’ — one of the themes in the first week of our Daily Worship. Pray this week for people who feel they don’t have a place, that they might start to feel they belong. Pray for places that need restoration and repair. Pray that we take good care of the places entrusted to us.