Making Sense of the Excuses

I’m a pastor. That’s means that I hear a lot of excuses. Mostly from church members who haven’t been to church in, I don’t know, forty years. I don’t even have to say anything. If they ever see me out in public they just skip past the pleasantries and go right in to the excuses.

The excuses never sound anything like this.

“Well hello preacher. I just wanted you to know that I am now a member of The American Society of Pagans and I haven’t been at church because  I’ve been busy sacrificing kittens to The Thunder Beast on Sundays.”

Or this.

“Hey, pastor. I  haven’t been coming around because I finally figured out that church is for losers and that my Sunday mornings would be much better spent watching reruns of Renegade staring Lorenzo Lamas as Reno Raines.

The excuses are much more subtle and, like I said, come out before I ever say anything. It’s sort of like when you come home from work and you hear one kid crying and see the other one holding a bat. Before you even say a word, the kid with the bat informs you that he, in fact, did not throw said bat from the top bunk just to see what would happen when it hits his brother in the mouth.

I’ve started thinking about all of the excuses that I hear. What do they really mean? I don’t guess that there’s anyway to know for sure but sometimes, just like when your bat-wielding kid tells you that he didn’t do anything, the excuse can be very telling.

“I’m sorry that we haven’t been around. We’ve just been so busy.”

I love this one because it implies that the millions of people who manage to make it to church on a regular basis have absolutely nothing going on in their lives. As if there are no single moms with three kids who also happen to be faithful to a church.

The problem with the busy crowd isn’t their schedule. It’s usually their priorities. But hey, “We’ve been too busy” sounds an awful lot better than “We’ve completely lost control of our schedule and everything is falling to pieces” or “My boss won’t let me skip work to go fishing but Jesus doesn’t mind if I skip church.”

“Sorry but we won’t be around for a while. __________________ season is about to start.” (Insert: baseball, quarterfinal gymnastic regional finals for children ages 3 months to 2 years, football, elk or NASCAR.)

Maybe it’s just because I was no good at baseball when I was a kid but at what point did little league teams start traveling all over the country and playing 162 games a year? It’s always funny how missing a practice is completely out of the question but being committed to other believers is acceptable. For this crowd, it’s all about convenience but don’t expect to hear that.

“Sorry, but we won’t be around for a while. Infant golf tryouts will be going on every Sunday morning for the next two months. Don’t worry, we still love Jesus but we figured that we could take him with us on Sundays while the recreational sports gods sort of require that we go to them on Sundays. Isn’t God’s grace good?”

“It’s just that Sunday mornings are my time. I need at least one day to sleep in.”

Sleep in? What time does your church start, 4 a.m.? Look, if you’re really that tired, just come to church and sleep. It happens all the time. Trust me on this.

“Church is full of a bunch of judgmental hypocrites.”

This one actually isn’t so bad. At least there is an attempt to be honest and not sugar coat things. But the real problem is that sometimes calling an entire group of people “judgmental hypocrites” can be, well, judgmental. And hypocritical.

It’s sort of like this. When you walk into a Wal-Mart, you will hear a child screaming. Count on it. And then you will hear that child’s mother screaming.

“Stop screaming!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

And you wonder where that child got his lungs from.

Some things sound good but they’re self-incriminating. It’s easy to say that the church is full of judgmental hypocrites. It’s also true. But that’s sort of the point. Jesus died for judgmental hypocrites. Once they give it a try, judgmental hypocrites that don’t go to church usually find out that they fit in rather nicely with all of the judgmental hypocrites that do go to church.

So if you’re not busy sacrificing kittens this Sunday, come to church and hang out with all of us other judgmental hypocrites who have nothing else going on in our lives.

We may not even scream at you if you fall asleep.