Pastor Murray redefines death as a condition where you only see the negative in life. He accuses many of practicing “dead religion,” or not coming to church for the Lord but to complain or be distracted. He argues that pretending everything is okay is dishonest and a failure to engage with issues as Jesus would.
During his 27 years as the pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal Church (FAME), Rev. Cecil “Chip” Murray transformed a small congregation into a megachurch that brought jobs, housing and corporate investment into South Los Angeles neighborhoods. After the 1992 civil unrest, FAME Renaissance, the economic development arm of the church, brought more than $400 million in investments to L.A.’s minority and low-income neighborhoods. Rev. Murray remains a vibrant force in the Los Angeles faith community through his leadership of the USC Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement.
The Murray Archive preserves Rev. Murray’s sermons and interviews in order to inspire the next generation of pastors, activists and scholars.
Click here to visit the Murray Archive
Click here to support the Murray Archive
Following is a lightly edited transcript of the above sermon. To quote from the sermon, please provide credit to: Rev. Cecil L. Murray, Murray Archives, USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture.
“There’s Always a Third Day” (Part Two)
April 19, 1992
Imagine. Imagine. Looking for a living Savior in a graveyard. Looking for a fur coat in a nudist colony. Looking for love in all the wrong places. Looking for a mate the last 70 long years and looking in every house, looking even in the courthouse, the jail house, the rock house, the transient house. Looking in every house but the church house. If the one you’re looking for doesn’t love a great big God, how they gonna love little old you? Looking for love in all the wrong places.
Looking for life in all the wrong places. When you feel like you’re just about to cut your throat, you go and get you some white powder, looking for life. You take the powder, then the powder takes you. Looking for love in all the wrong places.
Don’t you remember how he told you–Luke 24, verse 7–that I must be crucified, but I will rise again on the third day.
Our Easter subject is There’s Always A Third Day. Don’t you even think about suicide–that ain’t Black no way, is it? Suicide ain’t our thing, but it’s the second leading cause of death in young people 16 to 25. Don’t do that darlings. There’s always a third day. Unless you don’t want it, some people just love a graveyard religion. They just love a graveyard life, a graveyard religion. Some people even love a dead church. The deader, the better. Dead singing, dead preaching, dead praying, dead ushers, dead car parking lot. I like it like that. Because you a dead person.
Some people call the church every week, anybody died this week? No, no, nobody’s died, but we shall be happy to accept volunteers. Graveyard religion, graveyard church. And if the church ain’t dead, they’ll kill it.
Sisters came to the tomb early this morning. They brought what they knew, we always bring to life what we know. We bring to life what we ought, we bring to life what we have. God bless the sisters who came to the tomb this morning. But they come with frankincense, funeral ointment and they come with linen cloths and they’re gonna re-adorn the body of Jesus. They come with oils and with spices. They gonna bathe the body and they gonna adorn the body and oil the body and rewrap the body. They are coming to death.
Some people in religious Christendom are still coming with embalming fluid. At any church anywhere except this one, it don’t happen here. They come with the embalming fluid of, I’ve been here longer than you’ve been here. You just hush until you get a longevity, a bit of longevity on you. They come to the church with the embalming fluid of, We don’t need too many young people ’cause you know they don’t have no money. They come to the church with the embalming fluid of, Don’t bring all that noise in here, all them hallelujahs, and them hand-clapping and them drum-beating. We want things nice and quiet, don’t bring that noise in here.
Graveyard religion. Come to the church with the funeral ointment. What is that she got on her head? Where did she get that dress from? You want her to have another dress, why don’t you buy her one? Don’t them. If they hadn’t entered into sin. What about that sin you entered into? There are all kinds of sin. Civil rights? I come to church for a little religious relaxation. I want you to just soothe me a little bit and tell me I’m all right and everything is all right and I’m gonna go to heaven when I die. Graveyard religion.
Can’t blame folks for doing the best they know, but that angel at that tomb said, Hey, I serve a living Savior. He is in the world today. He’s not in a tomb, He’s in the world today, and you dress Him up in a three-piece suit and He’ll walk down to Skid Row and say, “You my man.” And He’ll go down to South Central and Nickerson Gardens, and He’ll say, “Hey, you don’t have to take that, come on and I’ll give you some wine of life.” And he’ll say to the hungry, “I have the bread of life.” And to the naked He’ll say, “Here, take the shirt off my back.” I serve a living Savior.
At a former parish, there was a family that lived in the graveyard, and he was known as Graveyard Brooks. They were the only people I ever knew who actually had their home in the graveyard. He died a few years ago, and she died a few weeks ago, and they left their home to the church there. And the pastor has been looking and looking and looking for somebody who was willing to stay in the graveyard. Hasn’t had any luck yet.
You and I don’t wanna stay in the graveyard, but we don’t mind Jesus staying in the graveyard. We wanna keep Jesus living in the graveyard, talking about what He was talking about 2,000 years ago. The husband wants to say, “I’m the head of the home.” Didn’t Paul tell the woman to be subject to the man? Yeah, but you bring Paul here now and ask Paul, “What if the man ain’t got no job, and the woman’s in charge of the home? What you gonna do then? How you gonna be in charge of something you ain’t paying for?”
Don’t you see that was written in a patriarchal society? A male-dominated society?
Two-thousand years ago, when Jesus is trying to protect women. I say no divorce because you just precipitously divorcing a woman at the whim of your desire and taking somebody else. I say no divorce, and if Jesus comes here now, come on out the tomb Jesus. What you say about people living together? Some folks should never have spoken, let alone get married.
We wanna keep Jesus in the tomb, and Jesus keeps trying to get free and saying I’m doing a new thing. I don’t stand in dead places, you know that? If you standing still talking about Lord save me. The Lord is waiting for some movement on your part. If you stand there saying, Lord I wanna fine husband and ain’t no Black men around, and we got 3,500 Black men in this church, and 1,700 of them are bachelors, and you talking about you can’t find nobody. You better open your eyes and come outta that tomb, there’s some fine Black men around here.
God doesn’t stay in any dead place. God shakes Jesus, say come on Jesus let’s get out of this tomb, I can’t stand dead places. We wonder why there’s so many vacant seats in so many churches. If only they could see that the Spirit of the Lord is moving upon you and when it hits you, you’ll holler, yes indeed! And people have got to feel a little bit when they go to the church. They got to know it’s all right to say, “Hallelujah, Lord! Amen, praise the Lord! Praise the Lord.Brothers come here, they don’t come here to be on display. Here, bring your wounded heart. Here, let one of the brothers put his arms around you and tell you that you are somebody. Let brown sugar lift you up and plant your feet on higher ground, then go out into the world tomorrow. I’m here to save my people. God can’t stand anything dead. Every time he reaches it, he says come on out of that tomb. This place stinks, I can’t stand the tomb. Graveyard religion.
Just as bad as Peeping Tom religion. Peeping Tom religion. The women come to the tomb and they peep. They see the stone is rolled away, they see it with their own eyes. They peep. They see that Jesus’ body is missing. They see it with their own eyes. They peep. They see that all the grave clothes are the only things that are left there and they still they say, “What are we gonna make of this? “Some people come to church asking, “What are we gonna make of this? Where is Jesus?”
Where do you think Jesus is, in the shower? He’s not here. He’s out helping where people are hurting.
Peter comes to the tomb and Peter peeps. And Peter peeks. Peter never goes into the tomb. I notice these peeping folks. I never saw so many peepers, especially in Los Angeles. They come to the barbershop and they stand outside … they just peep. Let us just sit here, and they look in the lobby, and a brother come to the door, and he’ll just peep. Sister come to the door and she’ll just peep. They’ll go where we feeding the homeless and they’ll just peep. They’ll walk over to choir rehearsal and they’ll stand a while and they’ll just peep. They come to the men’s meeting where the men are rehearsing the history of the brother, and they’ll just peep. I wonder what they do when they go to the restroom?
Some people go through life just peeping. They come to church peeping. I think it’s innocuous to talk about an Easter Christian, I’m glad every face here is familiar. I’m glad there ain’t no such creature of God, a Black creature of God that comes to church one time a year, maybe twice a year, if they come at Christmas. I know there ain’t no people like that. As good as God has been to you and me, as good as God has been to you and me, every day is Easter, every day is Easter. I’m not here to peep and see what y’all doing.
Peeping religion. Peeping religion. One person said, Whenever I pass a church, I stop in for a visit so that when I’m carried in, the Lord won’t say, “Who is it?”
Some of you are caught up in peeping relationships. You with a partner who just tells you the same thing Elizabeth Taylor told all of her husbands: Enjoy me, cause I ain’t here to stay. You got a perfect excuse now, you don’t have to compromise this temple God has given you. You can say I’m afraid of AIDS and you still ain’t saying that, ’cause I need me some love. Looking for love in all the wrong places. When your partner comes to you, you ought to look at your partner’s hit list. Great God from glory–one, two, three, four, five. What makes you think you ain’t gonna be number six? They tell you, I’m just here to peek. I don’t wanna see nothing, but what’s on the surface, don’t talk to me about no wedding bells. I just wanna peek through the bedroom. Just wanna see what goodies are in there. Don’t talk to me about no living room or den or no kitchen or no work room. I’m here just to peek. Standing on the outside looking in. I really don’t want to get involved.
Some of the children here are just peeking at school. Ain’t got nothing to do in life but go to school. Your momma, your daddy hitting that mule with a 20-pound hammer. Getting up every morning at 6 o’clock going to school. All you got to do is sit on your rusty dusty, and then when you finally get into classroom you won’t hardly do that. You stand outside the door and you just peek.
But, oh my goodness, you so fine. He’s got his California curl and she’s got her $90 hairdo on a $5 head, oh, but she’s so cute, you so cute, just peeking. Can’t tell you nothing. Can’t tell you nothing. You in 11th grade, you know everything. He’s so fine. He’s so fine. My momma told me, you’d better shop around. Don’t just peep at them tomatoes–you better squeeze them a little bit. May not be anything, any juice inside there. Better not just peep at it, because you don’t get but one chance when you Black. You mess up this edumacation, as our grandparents called it, then you come running back here with your stomach punching out talking about it was an accident. Ain’t nothing accidental about sex. You been peeking at the wrong thing.
Back seat of a car. As far as you know, ain’t but a front seat of a car, ’cause what he can support, ain’t even in his driving license, cause he ain’t got one. And his mamma is breaking her back, his daddy breaking his back to pay them thousand dollars extra a month on insurance and you ain’t got enough sense to know how to use a car without misusing your body, peeking all in the wrong places instead of getting vitally involved.
You in school to go to school. You in a relationship to give not to receive. You go to work to sweat and fight and pray. They downsizing, and you going to work 15 minutes late. If they say anything to me, I’ll file a suit. You gonna fight General Motors with all their assets, and all you got of asset is the first syllable. You gonna fight General Motors!
Peeping in at work, and they downsizing. Boss say, “Bill, you know I wish you wouldn’t whistle while you’re working.” I aint working, I’m just whistling.
Talking about the dissolution of the work ethic. You and I just got in the work market 20 years ago, and with them downsizing, we already getting out of the job market. You gotta do more than peek on the man’s or woman’s job. You gotta be there on time, you gotta come early. And you can’t be good enough, you gotta be twice as good. Come on and tell me I’m telling the truth.
We peep in to keep from digging in. When you dig in you’ve got to give something. To belong to the church, you got to tithe. You can’t just say, go out and save the world. I’m proud of what y’all doing and you ain’t paying your tithe. Nobody can eat free. Nobody can ride free. Nobody can dress themselves free. If we gonna feed the hungry and house the homeless and clothe the naked, it’s gonna take every one of us getting involved, not being a peeping Christian.That’s Flip Wilson. Flip comedian. What’s your religion? Oh, I’m a Jehovah’s Bystander. Excuse me, Mr. Wilson, you mean you’re a Jehovah’s Witness. No, I’m a Jehovah’s Bystander, I don’t wanna get that involved. Peeping Tom religion.
Well, what’s the best kind? I wanna come home after I tell you about B-class religion. When you in the B-class that means you gonna be here. If you belong to God, you gonna be here. They can downsize all they want to and fire you injudiciously, unfairly, un-ceremonially, but if you belong to God, you in the B-class. You may think you are delayed now in starting your family, but every Sunday at the altar, give me my family Lord. Every morning 15 seconds before you go to, Well done, Lord! Fifteen seconds at night with the Lord, give me the woman of my heart. Give me the man of my heart. Give me my health, Lord, and when you belong to God, you in the B-class. Like Jesus, you may be denied, but you in the B-class. Like Jesus, you may be betrayed, but you in the B-class. Like Jesus, you may be lifted up and crucified, but you in the B-class. Because like Jesus, if you’re lifted up on the Cross, God will lift you up from the Cross, you in the B class.
What about death? What about death, pastor? What class is death in? We’re not talking about the kind of death that a funeral home can handle. We mean when your spirit dies. When you don’t see any reason for living any longer. When everything about you is negative and negative and never positive or positive. What about death, pastor? What class is death in? Well, death is in no class. Jesus never had any regard for death. Death stood before Jesus one day talking about his class, and Jesus said, Class dismissed! Class dismissed! Ain’t nothing to you, death. Get outta my face! I’m gonna live for the Lord. I’m so glad Jesus lifted me. Not just on Easter morning, but every morning is Easter morning. I’m so glad Jesus lifted me! Singing glory, hallelujah, Jesus lifted me! In the name of Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. Amen. Amen.