What If It’s Catching?

What If It’s Catching?


Rev. Alison Buttrick Patton has been the pastor of Saugatuck Church since May of 2012. She also serves on the SNEUCC Board of Directors..

Scripture: Luke 5:1-11 (NRSV)

Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’ When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’ For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.’ When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

Reflection: What If It’s Catching?

These days, ‘catching people’ sounds too much like ‘catching a cold’ or ‘catching COVID’ to sell me on following Jesus. Do I really want to ‘catch’ people? Do I want to expose myself to all those maddening human quirks - bad attitudes, petty mindedness, or overblown worries? What if I catch someone’s disagreeable nature, or their misfortunes, or the fears that keep them up at night? What if I become infected by another person’s outlandish perspectives, by cynicism or distrust? I’ve already caught racism; it infected me without me realizing it. Although I work to immunize myself against its influence, it remains in my system, where it threatens to flare up without warning. 
And what about grief, or rage at injustice? If we dropped our masks (from a safe distance) and I looked my neighbors full in the face, took a good look at their pain, wouldn’t it pierce my own heart? All things considered, ‘catching people’ sounds incredibly risky, even reckless.
Like getting into a boat with someone who’s going to fill it with fish until it capsizes. Like following a man who insists on challenging the authority of the emperor. Like eating with a guy who exposes himself to all kinds of folks and their ailments.
Reckless. Which begs the question: Why would I do it? Unless becoming afflicted is, in this case, the point. Unless the guy we’re talking about came precisely because something in me needs to be afflicted: my complacency or judgy-ness, my resistance to change or selfishness or myopia. Unless there is in me something that needs to die to make space for more…what? Curiosity. Kindness. Grace. That is: to make space for more of God’s people in all their messy humanity. 
Maybe ‘catching people’ means catching onto the beauty and God-belovedness embedded in every complicated life, catching the fierce love that the Holy One has for all creation. Maybe it means getting caught up in the lives of my neighbors, until their joys and struggles are tangled up with mine. Maybe this is a condition of my own liberation. And ours.


Holy One, keep sending me your beloved, complicated people and exposing me to your love and grace, until I catch them. Amen.

New Prayer Requests:

We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at paged@sneucc.org

Prayers of Intercession:

  • For the families and friends of more than 879,000 who have died due to the Covid-19 disease
  • For those impacted by the storm this weekend and those struggling with the cold temperatures
  • For the family and friends of Rev. Dr. Thayer Green, former pastor of First Congregational in Amherst, MA. Rev. Green died Jan. 5
  • For the family and friends of Rev. James Chase, longtime Pastor of the Federated Church of Charlton, MA. Rev. Chase died on Jan. 11
  • For the family and friends of Rev. Gordon S. Bates, former Associate Conference Minister for Justice & Witness Ministries for the historic Connecticut Conference and pastor of several CT churches. Rev. Bates died on Jan. 20
  • For the family and friends of Rev. Dale M. Greene, former Pastor of the First Congregational Church of Greenwich in Old Greenwich, CT. Rev. Greene died on Jan. 25
  • For the family and friends of Jan Bittner, former Administrative Assistant for the historic Connecticut Conference. Jan died on Jan. 21

Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:

  • For artists who find new ways to share their artwork with the world
  • For those individuals who find ways to make us smile even in the darkness and cold

 This Week in History:

February 4, 1999 (23 years ago) Amadou Diallo is shot dead on the steps of his apartment building after members of the New York Police Department's Street Crime Unit (SCU) fire 41 shots at the unarmed Black man. Officers involved said they mistook Diallo for a serial rapist, but their story changed several times, identifying him as a mugger or a drug dealer. Though officers claimed Diallo reached for a gun, a witness said he had took out his wallet and was given no warning before the shots were fired. An internal investigation resulted in the SCU's disbandment and a civil wrongful death suit awarded the Diallo family $3 million dollars, but the 4 officers involved in the shooting were found not-guilty of all charges and remained on the force. 

“Study the past if you would define the future.”

Alison J. Buttrick Patton

pastor of Saugatuck Congregational Church, UCC in Westport

January 31, 2022
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