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August 13, 2023 there are no recorded services available this week
August 13, 2023 – Sermon
The Dollar Store
John 14:15-19, 25-26
Have you ever lost your wallet, pocketbook, or purse? It’s an upsetting experience, isn’t it? I lost my wallet at the beginning of this summer. It was on a Saturday evening. I had gone to the Dollar Store in Dennis Port to purchase something for the children’s time the next day. I went through the cashier’s line, taking out my wallet to pay for the few items I purchased, then went back to my truck and drove home. It wasn’t until a few hours later, when we were walking our dog before going to bed, that I realized I didn’t have my wallet with me. We were about halfway through the walk, and I started to panic. I tried to think of what might have happened to it. When Joy and I finished the walk, I looked all over the house; in the bedroom, the kitchen, my desk, but I couldn’t find it. I went back outside and looked in the truck, thinking perhaps it was pushed out of my back pocket somehow. I looked on the seat, under the seat, on the floor – still didn’t find it. I was so frustrated because I didn’t want to have to contact the credit card company, and let them know we lost our card, or go to the RMV to get a new license. I also had over $100 cash in my wallet and – I know this isn’t smart – my social security card! Thoughts of people finding my wallet, taking the cash, trying to use our credit card, and perhaps even using my driver’s license and social security card to steal my identity raced through my head. You hear stories about that kind of stuff, don’t you? Even though it was getting late at this point, and I had to get up early the next morning to lead worship, Joy and I decided to do the walk again, with a flashlight, in case the wallet fell out while walking. So, we headed out the door and retraced our steps, hoping to find the wallet on the side of the road, in the school parking lot, or on the grass. No luck. It was getting quite late at this point. I realized there was nothing else we could do, so we went to bed.
When I got up, before going to worship, I looked around the house again, but still couldn’t find it. I even went on the computer and looked up what a person had to do to get a new driver’s license if you lost yours. Joy went onto the computer as well and discovered our credit card had not been used yet, so this was good news. I decided to drive (without my driver’s license) to the parking lot of the Dollar Store, to see if perhaps my wallet was there. The store wasn’t open yet, but I was running out of options. I doubted I dropped it there, but I went anyhow, just to make sure. I didn’t find it.
I was angry with myself. Frustrated with all the extra work I’d have to do to make sure no one stole my identity, to do to get new credit cards and a license. I concluded I must have dropped it, someone else had it, and I wasn’t going to see it again. The last place to look for it was in the Dollar Store. Now, I didn’t think anyone at the store would have it, and if I did happen to lose it at the Dollar Store, I wasn’t too confident someone would turn it in. Are you familiar with the Dollar Store? I like this store – because – well, you can get good stuff for…a dollar (or so). They have great deals on certain items – including nice, affordable greeting cards – and other things. Although I like the store, it’s not – Macy’s, Bed Bath and Beyond, Snows, or even CVS. Do you know what I mean? The store’s not always clean. Inventory is often in the aisles. Shelves aren’t neatly kept. The store is usually understaffed, and often there are long lines at the cash register. At times – the workers don’t look too motivated. I had little hope someone at the Dollar Store would find my wallet, or if someone did, they’d turn it in.
Just to be sure, after church finished, I drove to the Dollar Store and looked for someone to ask if a wallet had been found. I walked up and down the aisles looking for a staff person but couldn’t find one. I walked into the back room – because it was open – called out but couldn’t find anyone. I walked over to one corner where there’s a room with a two-way mirror, tapped on the door, still no one answered. There was a long line of people waiting to check out at the one cash register that was open. I didn’t want to wait on a long line, just to find out my wallet wasn’t here, so I got the attention of the young woman working the register, told her I was there last night, and wondered if anyone had found a wallet. She said “Maybe,” and asked me to wait a moment. After finishing with a customer, she took me to the room with that two-way mirror and asked for my name. I told her, she went to a shelf, and after a few moments, came out with my wallet! I was overjoyed. In addition, everything was inside! I couldn’t believe it. I was so grateful – and relieved. I thanked the young woman profusely. She said, “You’re welcome” and went back to the long line of waiting customers.
Isn’t that a good story? I wanted to share it with you for several reasons, mostly because of what it reminded me of. Many of you know we’ve been having a study this summer on the Holy Spirit. It’s been a good Bible study, exploring different references throughout scripture, both the Old and New Testaments, which refer to the Spirit of God. We’ve had some excellent conversations and insightful reflections. The passage read today was one we looked at together recently. It’s part of a larger section from the Gospel of John, often referred to as Jesus’ farewell address and prayer. The reason why is because Jesus offers these words just before he’s arrested, brought before the authorities, and executed. In these verses Jesus tries to reassure his disciples before he is taken away from them. In them we hear Jesus say, although he will be leaving and returning to God soon, he won’t leave them “orphaned” or without help. Jesus tells them God will send an “Advocate,” to take his place. This “Advocate” is also the Spirit of Truth and will help Jesus’ followers remember what they need to remember. It will help instruct them and guide them in the future.
The reason why I wanted to share my wallet story with you is because I was reminded of several important things through this experience, perhaps some that are good for us all to remember. Because I was reminded of some truths, consistent with the Gospel, I think a connection can be made between this experience and the Spirit. We all know we don’t always automatically learn from our experiences, right? We can go through life, have a variety of things happen to us, and not benefit from them at all, as far as gleaning things that can help us in the future. However, if we try to be intentional about listening – listening for the Spirit to speak to us through our experiences, we can learn a great deal from them. When this happens, experience can be a great teacher. After this incident with my wallet, it felt like the Spirit was reminding me that there are still very good people in this world. This is helpful to remember, isn’t it? I had practically given up hope finding my wallet again, and if I did, I doubted it would still have any cash in it. I became anxious and annoyed thinking about having to deal with identity theft and lost credit cards. That was really the first place my mind went. Yet, the folks at the Dollar Store had it. I must have dropped the wallet while paying for the items the night before. Someone either found the wallet and gave it to the cashier, or the cashier themselves took it and made sure it was kept safe. This experience reminded me that although we can hear so many stories of people doing bad, harmful, mean-spirited, inappropriate, and wrong things today, there are still many people ready and willing to do the right thing. Perhaps more than we think! Through the mass media and a great deal of advertising, the picture we’re often given of our world and the people in it today is usually negative. Isn’t it? So, it’s hard not to let these forces influence us too much. It’s hard not to go down that rabbit hole and become cynical, fearful, and untrusting. This experience reminded me it’s just not true. We can continue to trust that there are still many good people in this world.
The other thing I was encouraged to remember – once again – was not to judge too quickly – not to make assumptions about other people – or places – just because of the way they look or first appear. The Spirit reminded me not to make assumptions based upon outward appearances, especially when I haven’t taken the time to first learn what’s in another’s heart. The Dollar Store is not a fancy establishment, but that shouldn’t be a reflection upon the people who work there or who frequent the place. It doesn’t mean these folks aren’t good people and won’t do the right thing when given the chance. I’m a clergy person, and I had to be reminded of this truth. Do you hear what I am saying?
As I reflected upon this experience, and all the emotions I had moving through me, I realized the Spirit was convicting me a bit, in a good way, reminding me to be careful about forming opinions about others too quickly; reminding me of the need to constantly check my biases, and to continue to trust in the basic goodness of others. The Holy Spirit is real. It’s alive and well, and with us today, just as Jesus promised. This presence of God, this Spirit of Jesus Christ is with us, to guide, comfort, convict, advocate, assist, help, and instruct us – whatever is needed. It can reveal to us the things we need to remember when we continue to seek to have the mind of Christ within us and remain open to its instruction. Experience can be a wonderful teacher, especially when it’s combined with a genuine desire to listen to what the Spirit of God might be trying to share with us through our experiences. Yes, the Holy Spirit is alive and well. In the words of the civil rights activist, award-winning author, and poet Maya Angelou, “Spirit is an invisible force made visible in all life.” The Spirit can remind us of important truths through any experience we have, even at the local Dollar Store! Sometimes, you just never know where – or when – these Spirit-directed lessons will come. Amen
Rev. John E. Mueller, Pastor
South Yarmouth United Methodist Church