June 2014 – Misunderstandings
    My sermon June 1 was titled, “What’s the Big Deal about Sex?” About fifteen minutes into my message, two rows of high school students sitting in the front right side of our sanctuary stood up and walked out. I didn’t know what I had said that disturbed them so much. I continued my message, but I was upset. I felt like I must lack the wisdom and grace to connect with them.

    In 1985 I was teaching in Honolulu at the YWAM base. While I was there, the base leader at the University of the Nations in Kona asked if I could come to the Big Island and speak at their Friday night assembly. Loren and Darleen Cunningham, YWAM’s founders were leading the first Leadership Training School at the University. YWAM’s main leaders from around the world were attending the school and were present along with six hundred others the night I spoke.     

    The meeting was held in a partially covered outdoor amphitheater on their campus. I was honored to be the speaker and nervous about my message. In the middle of my message, the following story popped into my mind and I shared it: One night in 1971, I went to the home of the parish priests at St. Isabella’s Catholic Church in Terra Linda, California for a Bible study. I had grown up in this parish, and had gone to a mass and heard about the study. I had been filled with the Spirit and studying the Bible for a year. There were eight people in a circle in the living room when I arrived. The priest welcomed me. He then began the meeting by saying that the gospels cannot be taken literally, since they differ from one another.

    My heart started pounding rapidly. I spoke up, saying the gospels can definitely be taken literally. He said that I didn’t know what I was talking about. I told him that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are still operating in the Church today. He said that I couldn’t prove the gifts of the Spirit were still valid. In order to prove my point, I spoke out loudly in tongues. The others in the group were shocked. The priest stood up, grabbed my arm and escorted me to the door. “Don’t ever come back here and do something like that again!” he said, as he pushed me out the door.

    As I told this story to the YWAM assembly I spoke out loudly in tongues, just like I had done that night. As soon as I did that, hundreds of people from around the meeting stood up and started leaving. I was stunned. I felt like I had grieved the Holy Spirit and didn’t know how to recover. I quickly finished my message. Afterwards, Darleen Cunningham came up to me.     “Mark, I was enjoying your story at the end, but I don’t think you finished it.”

    “When people started leaving after I spoke in tongues, I felt like I grieved the Holy Spirit.”

    “They didn’t leave because you spoke in tongues. They moved because it started raining and they weren’t under the cover. They didn’t want to get wet.”

    As I left church June 1, I ran into Corey, one of our high school leaders. “I guess I said something the kids couldn’t relate to very well?”

    “No. We all had to leave early because we were setting up for the fund raising barbeque. I probably should have told you in advance.”

    Misunderstandings test our hearts. My tests reveal a need for more trust and confidence in God. Fortunately God’s Kingdom doesn’t falter when we fall short. Jesus is interceding for us. His wisdom and grace enable us to fulfill His will, and reign in life, in spite of our weaknesses.