Reverend Lovejoy's sermon on "constancy" almost sends the entire congregation to sleep. After church Homer takes Bart and Lisa to the Springfield dump to dispose of their old Christmas tree, where they find a box of Japanese dishwasher detergent known as Mr. Sparkle. The face of the character on the box of the detergent strongly resembles Homer. Meanwhile, Marge becomes concerned with Lovejoy's lack of enthusiasm about helping people. He explains to Marge that he was enthusiastic about the ministry and helping his fellow man when he first arrived in Springfield. However, his passion for helping people gradually degraded as he dealt with Ned Flanders and his constant complaints over trivial and common issues. She begins working for the Church as "The Listen Lady", listening to people's problems and helping solve them. Reverend Lovejoy soon realizes his inadequacy and begins to feel depressed. While he is alone in the church the stained glass images of saints appear and chastise him for doing little to inspire his congregation.
Homer, disturbed by the box of Mr. Sparkle, contacts the manufacturer in Hokkaidō, Japan for information. He is sent a promotional video for Mr. Sparkle, which consists of a TV commercial. At the end of the video, the mascot is shown to be a result of a joint venture between two large Japanese conglomerates, Matsumura Fishworks and Tamaribuchi Heavy Manufacturing Concern. Their mascots, a smiling anime fish and light bulb, merge to form Mr. Sparkle. Thus, Homer discovers the similarity was a mere coincidence.
Ned Flanders calls Marge for help. Jimbo, Dolph, and Kearney are hanging around outside the Leftorium, making Ned worried that they will start causing trouble. Marge suggests that he shoo them away. The trio are about to leave, but when he goes and asks them to, they decide to harass him instead. Ned calls Marge again, whilst he is standing on a chair with the three boys circling him on their minibikes. She suggests that he "lay down the law", and when one of the boys snips the phone cord, Marge assumes that Ned has hung up and that everything is fine.
The next morning, Maude informs Marge that Ned is missing, having been chased around by the boys throughout the night. Marge realizes that she may be partially responsible for his disappearance. Marge goes to Reverend Lovejoy for help, and the two of them track Ned to the zoo, where Japanese tourists think Homer is Mr. Sparkle. Jimbo, Dolph, and Kearney have abandoned their pursuit, but now Ned is trapped in the baboon exhibit. While the Simpson family looks on, Reverend Lovejoy rescues Ned in the baboons' food train. Now that he feels useful again, Reverend Lovejoy rediscovers his passion for his job, regaling his congregation with the tale of Ned's rescue.