In this sermon, Rev. Murray compares dark or difficult periods in our lives to storms. “Storms make sailors…and when storms come, you don’t have to get stormy. You don’t have to raise a storm when storms come.” Through this metaphor, Murray encourages his congregation to stay positive and stable through these periods. Instead of looking down and getting depressed, he encourages them to look up and ask the Lord for help. This will get them through the storms in their lives.
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.
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.
“Stand the Storm, It Won’t Be Long”
April 30, 2000
Do you feel it? Do you believe it? Say, yeah! So, help me God. So, help me God. To see that storms make sailors. That’s how you got where you are this morning. You been through a storm—say, yeah! Storms. Storms make sailors, and when storms come, you don’t have to get stormy. You don’t have to raise a storm when storms come. Some of us, when storms come, we get as evil as a wet hen. You don’t have to raise a storm when the storm comes in your life. Storms make sailors.
Don’t become Jesse James, become like Will James. You know the psychologist who says, everyone, everyday oughta do some duty that you don’t want to do. It builds your moral fiber. Just as your body is built by lifting weights, so your moral structure is built by lifting weights.
There is this myth of this young boy who used to go out into the pasture every morning, and he’d lift the calf. Every morning he’d come out and he’d take that calf and lift that calf. Of course, the calf is getting bigger, but the boy is getting stronger. So that he’s still able to lift that calf when it’s a full bull.
Our struggles make strength. Our stresses make strength. If you’re going through some stress right now, don’t you go to pieces. If you’re going through some struggles right now, if you’ll just make it through the night and the morning. In the morning, you’ll be stronger, you’ll be buffed out. Stress, stress makes strength.
Look at Acts 27, that’s on page 894. Take out your Bibles children. Really get familiar with the Word of God. Page 894, there at the bottom, let’s begin reading at verse 27.
Acts 27, verse 27: “About midnight, on the fourteenth night of the storm, as we were being driven to and fro from the Adriatic Sea. The sailors suspected land was near, they sounded and found 120 feet of water below them. A little later they sounded again and found only 90 feet. At this rate they know they would soon be driven ashore and, fearing rocks along the coast, they threw out four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight.”
That’s where a lot of us are right now: praying for daylight.
Some of the sailors planned to abandon the ship. Lowered the emergency boat as though they were going to put out anchors from the prow. But Paul said to the soldiers and the commanding officer, “You will all die unless everyone stays aboard.” So, the soldiers cut the ropes and let the boat fall off. As the darkness gave way to the early morning light, Paul begged everyone to eat, you haven’t touched food for two weeks he said. Please eat something now for your own good.
Listen to this guarantee: “For not a hair of your heads shall perish.”
We will all die if we abandon the ship. Our subject: Stand the storm, it won’t be long. Stand the storm, it won’t be long. Tell your neighbor, “We’ll anchor by and by.” Tell your neighbor, “We’ll anchor by and by.”
We’ll anchor by and by. Two things: One, maintain the ship and, two, maintain yourself. Maintain the ship. It’s about sunset. Maybe it’s sunset in somebody’s life right now. The sun is going down and the darkness appears. It’s sunset when you thought things were gonna be one way and it looks as if they’re going to be another way. It’s sunset because the rent is due and you don’t have the money. It’s sunset because you’ve said I love somebody who just walked away and left you at sunset.
They are farther coming away from fair haven. Paul told ’em, don’t leave fair haven. Stay there. But still they came ahead, and now the storm has been tossing them for some two weeks. Some of the sailors say, land ho! Lord, is that a wonderful cry. When you think you’re gonna be lost, land ho! When you go to the doctor expecting a problem and the doctor says, land ho! Oh, what a wonderful sound, land ho! Hope after you leave worship, you leave here saying land ho! I had a wonderful time, the men sang, the choir was good, the ushers were cordial, everything was good, everybody say, “Land ho!”
But lookey here, in the twinkling of an eye, you can go from land ho to land horror. In the twinkling of an eye. If you enjoying life right now, you better have a good time. If you got a reasonable portion of good health, you better say land ho. If everything is alright with you, you better be alright with everything. Don’t you be wrong here, complaining if you ain’t got nothing to complain about. In the twinkling of an eye, you can go from land ho to land horror.
They sound the [water depth], they throw out the cable. Now they do it electronically. They throw out the cable and then they see how much linkage is there, 20 fathoms. Then they go on. They throw out the cable again, 15 fathoms. Oh, my goodness, the way we’re going, we’re gonna crash, we’re gonna hit on the reefs. We gonna hit on the rocks. We better slow the ship down. They run to the stern of the ship, fellows that is the back end, ain’t it? The stern. They run to the back end of the ship and they throw out four anchors, two, three, four.
Don’t you get the message? When you’re heading for the rocks, for God’s sake, put on the brakes. While you’re being self-destructive, what you’re doing now is bad for you. You headin’ for the rocks, slow down, no, stop. Put on the brakes. Put on the brakes while you can put on the brakes. It’s too late when you in jail to say I should have.
When you utterly depressed, I should have. Don’t shoulda, coulda, woulda–do it now! Put on the brakes. Hope is an anchor. They throw out hope. They throw out hope because if you put on the brakes, you hope God will help you. Just as sure as your head is hot, if you help yourself, God will help you. If you’re about something now that you want to get cleaned of, if you just put on the brakes, God will help you. I don’t care if you eating that pork when you ain’t got no business eating it. If you just say Lord, help me. God will help you, and stop doing it. Put on the brakes.
Hope is an anchor. My anchor holds, grips the solid rock. But the same thing that causes some people to have hope, causes other people to have hopelessness. We talked about it before. All this catering to the sisters, talking ’bout these issues you’ve got. If you’ve got some issues, God will help you clean up your issues. If you just want to complain all the time, you are hopeless. You don’t ever want to get hopeless. Go ’round with your head bowed. What are you looking for? You just like an anteater. You just like a warthog, always looking down. Look up and say, “Lord, help me now! Lord, help me. I can’t help myself. Lord, help me.”
Some of the sailors are hopeless. Look what those rascals want to do. They want to steal the boat. It’s the rowboat, the boat that’s attached. It’s onboard, they pulled it in. Some of them, they kept together we goin’, we goin’. For every reaction, there are two reasons, the good reason and what, the real reason. What’s the good reason? We gonna get in the boat and we gonna set out another anchor. What’s the real reason? We gonna get away from this ship. This ship is sinking. And you’ll all make it through the darkness, but we not gonna be here when the morning comes. We gonna save ourselves.
Paul tells them, and Paul tells the captain, look at this fellow, maybe he was humpbacked, we don’t know. Had some kind of illness, we don’t know. A shrill voice that they said he was the loudest preacher you’ve ever heard of, we don’t know. But in the time of the storm, if you are a sailor, don’t matter what’s wrong with you, you can still have courage in the time of the storm. You can still have strength in the time of the storm.
Paul says no, no. We will all sink together or we will all survive together. And we are all going to survive because God has told me we are going to survive. When the storm of life is raging, have a little talk with Jesus. Then you come out of your issues, we’re gonna survive, we [will] do it for this life. Joy comes in the morning. We’re gonna survive.
They cut the boat loose. And then they said, alright, it’s sink or swim. That’s where we are. Sink or swim. Better stop talking ’bout your neighbor, ’cause we all in the same boat. Sink or swim. Maintain the boat, secondly, secondly, maintain yourself.
Paul says to the company, “Let’s eat! We been in this storm for 14 days, and you’ve been kind of fasting, snacking here and there. Your strength is gone, your morale is gone, we’re lifting this calf, but you gotta eat to keep your strength going. Let’s eat, stop being so decadent, stop worrying so much. Didn’t God tell you, you’re gonna make it through the storm, why are you starving yourself to death? Why are you so depressed? Why are you so hungry for love? Why are you so hungry for recognition? Why are you so hungry for group approval? Why are you so hungry that you lie down and let some man walk over you or some woman walk over you? Why don’t you rear your children right? Why are you hungry for what’s gonna happen instead of eating what’s happening now? Why are you putting off your life for some jackass that hasn’t got the sense God gave a gopher?
Paul preaches to them. They’re lifting up the loaf of bread, Paul prays for it. Then they eat, and they begin to get their strength. It only takes one. You waiting for somebody to straighten your life out, you gonna be waiting ’til you as old as Methuselah. It only takes one. You waitin’ for somebody in your family to act like they got some sense, you better go and be that someone. It only takes one.
William Lloyd Garrison, you remember him? Edited the paper called The Liberator. Fighting against slavery. He sold his cot, he sold his furniture, he sold everything he had in order to afford newsprint so he could preach and work against slavery. What was his epitaph? ‘Cause you’re known by you epitaph, what your life stands for. His epitaph says: I am in earnest, I will not retreat a single step and I will be heard.
When you in the right, I will be heard. When things are wrong, I will be heard. I’m gonna take a stand for what’s right.
They eat and then they begin to lighten the ship. They throw the grain overboard this time, and those who owned the grain, the grain merchants, who made them come out in this storm in the first place, they finally understand, it is better to drown the food than to have the food drown you.
Some of us are like those merchants. We have a long way to understand, materialism is secondary, spiritualism is primary. Some of us have gone money crazy. Some of us have money as an idol. The love of money is the root of all evil. Not money itself, everything needs money. The church pleads for your tithe. Your family needs money, you need money. But the love of money.
Let me tell you again about that young adult man who’s lying on the sidewalk, a victim of a car wreck. He had a car accident and he keeps just moaning, “Oh, my BMW! Oh, my BMW!” Medic gets put out with him, man you here moaning ’bout your BMW and we can’t even find your left arm. “My left arm, my left arm! Oh, my Rolex watch! Oh!”
Riding high. The ship is riding high, we’ve lightened the load, land ho. Then all of a sudden, we hit a sand bar. You’re going down the avenue and you hit a water pump in your BMW. You hit a sand bar. You thought you were doing alright and the next thing you know, I want a divorce. Sand bar. You thought your children were doing fine and the police call you up and say come on down we’ve got your 14-year-old here for selling drugs. Sand bar. Your sister call you, and your brother call you, and say I’m get cha. Sand bar. You come to church and you feeling good and somebody tells you some nasty news. Sand bar. You think you’re doing alright and you’re loving everybody, somebody sends you a hate note. Sand bar.
When your sand bar comes, shout hallelujah. Anybody here know what hallelujah mean? Hallel: praise, ujah: praise to God. Everybody shout: Hallelujah! Hallelujah. Hallel, Hallelujah!
Before they left the ship, and the Captain had said everybody swim or make it on some planks. Everybody got a piece of wood, get to shore. Count them, onboard, 276. Then when they get to shore, count them, 276. Not a soul was lost.
Paul says, Didn’t God tell you that not a single one of us would be lost? Didn’t God tell you that the ship will be lost, but you will be saved? Didn’t God tell you there are sand bars in life? Didn’t God tell you, even when you hit the sand bar, you shout hallelujah?
Coming home now, I just want to tell you about Handel. Baby play that guitar. Give us some blues. Yes. That was Handel. Twenty-three days locked away, working on the Messiah. For Black folks, the blues is the Messiah. Some of you all need to learn how to sing the blues. Anthems won’t do you when you got that sand bar. Listen to it, Handel. When the Messiah, so absorbed, he doesn’t even eat his meals, force him to eat. Then when he gets to that part about the hallelujah chorus, he says I declare, I saw the Heavens open, I saw the throne of God. I saw God himself, hallelujah. Hallelujah! The storm is passing over. Hallelujah. The storm is passing over, hallelujah. Hallelujah, stand the storm. It won’t be long, we’ll anchor by and by, in the name of Jesus.
Lift up both of your hands. Father, Mother, Abba, Yahweh, thank you for this moment. We’ve made it through a storm. Some of us are caught up in that storm right now. But you count us, then when you get to the shore, count you again. Thank you, Jesus. Put your hands down children. If you have no church home, come on and meet us here at the Cross. We need you to help us, help others. Don’t worry about appearances, just come as you are. If you have no church home, come on and be with us now, let the spirit of God lead you to the meeting place. If you have a church home, take this opportunity to renew your covenant. Take this opportunity to say the storm is passing over. Take this opportunity to say, Lord, I stretch my hands to thee. If you need prayers for somebody, come down and pray for that person. If your mom is sick, come on down. If your brother’s in trouble, come on down. Turn right when you get to the Cross and the prayer warriors will meet you. If you’re coming to join, turn left as we sing.
Come on and sing it brother. Come on brothers, come on brother. Come on brother. Thank you, Jesus.
without a church home, come down. If you’re standing on your feet, renew yourselves. Go into this week as a brand new person. Thank you Jesus. Look out neighbor, move your feet, I hear the Lord calling me. Thank you Lord. Make it through your storm. Thank you Jesus. Thank you Jesus.