FROM PASTOR MEYER’S DESK: A few evenings ago I did something that I don’t do very often. I went grocery shopping with Marilyn at Wal-Mart. You might find this hard to believe, but I’ve always enjoyed grocery shopping, probably because I used to work in a grocery store back when I was in high school. I stocked shelves, sacked groceries, and even checked people out when our regular cashiers were extra busy. There were even a few times when my boss went on vacation and trusted me to place the order for the incoming groceries the following week. So put me in a grocery store and I feel very much at home, which is why, when I didn’t have anything better to do, I shocked Marilyn with my suggestion that I accompany her on this shopping expedition.
When we arrived at Wal-Mart I told her I needed to get some gas there, so I dropped her off and said I would catch up with her later. Actually I had an ulterior motive, though, for I wanted to scope out the Valentine’s cards and pick out a very special one for my very special Valentine of more than 40 years now. I also needed to pick up some hearing aid batteries. So I found what I was looking for and, eager to get back to Marilyn, I went to the express lane. You know, the one that says 20 items or less. Now I’m sure this has never happened to you (Yeah, right!), but there were two ladies checking out in front of me. And though I didn’t actually count how many items that their overflowing grocery carts contained, my casual estimate was that it was a lot more than 20. Need I tell you that I was not a happy camper? And to make matters worse, they were taking their sweet old time, gabbing with one another and gabbing with the checkout lady, giggling like a bunch of little school girls. None of them seemed to notice me and the 2 items I was wanting to check out. Had I been able to get their attention, I was planning on shooting them “the look.” You know what I’m talking about. It’s the look that my mom used to send my way when I was misbehaving in church or the look that my wife shoots at me like a SCUD missile across a crowded room when she sees me “double-dipping” my cracker or potato chip in the taco dip. The furrowed brow. The shaking of the head. The daggers that appear to be coming out of her eyes. I can envision some of you men who are reading this nodding your head up and down as if to say, “Oh yeah, I know exactly what you’re talking about! Been there and done that.”
Well, for once I was going to shoot that same look at these ladies and let them know how displeased I was with their dilly-dallying around while they checked out their very pregnant grocery carts. But I didn’t get the chance to do it because when the one woman finally glanced over at me and I was all set to give her my very best sour puss expression, she stopped me dead in my tracks when she said, “Well, hi, Pastor Meyer! I didn’t see you standing there.” And then, to really make me feel bad she said with a look of great concern on her face, “And how is Kim doing? I pray for her every day.”
Now I’ve got to be honest with you. I had no idea who this woman was. But that’s not unusual. She looked somewhat familiar, but having served vacancies at a number of Lutheran churches in our area and having lived here for almost 27 years, I’ve had a lot of contact with a lot of people. And while they may recognize me, I sometimes don’t have a clue as to who they are.
I remember when I was ordering a sandwich at Subway one time, the young lady behind the counter was asking me the usual questions as to what I wanted on it and then out of the blue she said, “Are you on the radio?” I said, “Well, yes, our church does a radio broadcast that can be heard on Sunday mornings at 8:00.” Then she said, “You’re Pastor Meyer! I’ve listened to you before.”
On another occasion when Marilyn and I had finished a beautiful hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, I had some questions I wanted to ask a park ranger about a few things we noticed on that hike. I saw a female ranger standing there, looking like she was wanting to help someone, so I ambled on up to her and asked her my questions. After she answered them I thanked her and turned around to walk back to our car with Marilyn. But before I got too far away, that park ranger said, “Excuse me, sir, but are you by any chance a pastor?” I looked at her rather strangely and said, “Yes.” Then she said, “Lutheran?” I looked at her even more strangely and said, “Yes.” Then when she asked my name and I told her, she said, “You did my aunt’s funeral 18 years ago!” She told me her aunt’s name and she was right. She even told me some of the things I said in my funeral sermon that I couldn’t remember. After we chatted for a while and headed back to the car, Marilyn said, “I can’t take you anywhere where you don’t know somebody.” To which I replied, “Yeah, and since that’s true, I have to be on my best behavior at all times.”
Now what’s my point in sharing all of this with you? Well, as I thought about it after I almost made a complete fool of myself with those ladies at Wal-Mart and gave them a horrible picture of how a Christian is not supposed to act, it dawned on me that one of our goals each day should be to be on our best behavior at all times. Now that’s not always an easy thing to do, is it? By nature we are very sinful, selfish, and self-centered human beings who want things our way. And heaven help the person who gets in our way. If they’re not careful, they just might have some daggers of disgust and displeasure thrown in their direction.
How much better it would be to treat people as Jesus treated them, to love them as He loved them, to serve them as He served them. Picture him, especially as we soon begin the season of Lent, kneeling before His disciples and washing their dirty, smelly feet; agonizing in the Garden of Gethsemane over the sacrifice He was about to make for sinful human beings like you and me; praying God’s forgiveness upon the very men who nailed Him to that cross; and a few weeks later, spending some alone time with Peter on the shore of the Sea of Galilee where He forgave this wayward disciple for His 3 denials and reinstated him as one of the chosen 12. This same Jesus says in Matthew 5:16: “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
On the windowsill above our kitchen sink, Marilyn has placed about a 10-inch rectangular piece of wood that begs to be read every time any of us stands at that sink. It simply says, Because nice matters. It matters to our family members. It matters to our co-workers. It matters to our teachers and classmates. It matters to the person ahead of you at Wal-Mart with the overflowing cart in the 20 items or less lane. And most of all, it matters to God. So my challenge for you this Lenten season is this: Instead of giving something up for Lent, as some do, go out of your way to give something to someone for Lent. Each day make it a point to do something nice for someone else because nice matters.
In Christ’s service and yours,