In this sermon, Rev. Murray encourages his congregation to push through hard times not with self-sufficiency, but with clear-eyed knowledge of their situation and “Christ-sufficiency.” He encourages them to continue to have faith in hard times, because Jesus will always come through, sooner or later.
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.
“To Be Abashed or To Abound?”
August 16, 1998
More to the core. Everybody, come on and say, “Excuses, excuses, excuses!”
Excuses, excuses, excuses. I don’t have any of this. I don’t have any of that. I don’t have anything to wear. I don’t have enough money. I don’t have any friends. I don’t have any help. I don’t have any this. I don’t … You have Jesus. You have Jesus. Tell your neighbor you have Jesus. You have Jesus! You have Jesus. You have Jesus. That’s not enough, but it’s enough to get started, and if you get started with Jesus, Jesus will take you where you need to go.
Everybody ought to memorize this verse, Philippians 4:13. Repeat after pastor: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Listen, I know how to get along happily, whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. Our subject, to be abashed or to abound.
If you’re going to abound this morning, then get knowledge. Get knowledge. Everybody say, “Knowledge!”
Knowledge of your situation and knowledge of your salvation. Let’s look at first knowledge of your situation. Our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents in the midst of the peril of slavery and serfdom used to sing, “I’ve been buked and I’ve been scorned.” I’ve been talked about sure as you’re born. Then showing their universal sophistication, there is trouble all over this world. There is trouble all over this world, but the choir will tell you about that third stanza. Ain’t going to lay this religion down. Ain’t going to lay this religion down.
My situation is not so good now. I don’t have this. I don’t have that, but what I do have is Jesus Christ, the Lord! What I do have is another day a coming. Ain’t going to lay this religion down. Knowledge of your situation. Paul’s situation: I’ve been jailed. I’ve been imprisoned. I’ve been lashed with the 40 minus one. The Roman law allowed those who were subjected to crime to be lashed with 40 lashes, but if you gave them 41, 42, 43, then you in turn would be lashed. In order to keep from going over the 40 they would give you 39, the 40 minus one. I’ve had the 40 minus one several times!
My enemies have whipped me and abused me. I’ve been buked and I’ve been scorned. I’ve been talked about sure as you’re born. Ain’t going to lay this religion down. Get a knowledge of your situation. You may be in crisis at this very moment, but I know somebody who can heal any crisis. Your body may be afflicted, but I know somebody who’s a doctor. Your mind may be confused, but I know somebody who’s a mind-doctor. Your money may be funny, but I know somebody who says, “The cattle on a thousand hills are mine.” I know the person who brought you to this sanctuary this morning. If you know that person, come on and say, “Yeah!”
Get knowledge. Get knowledge of your situation. That will lead you to knowledge of your salvation. The same way you got things going against you, you got things going for you. How many of you here are blind this morning? Raise your hand if there’s anybody who’s blind. Is anybody in a wheelchair this morning? What I want to tell you, even if you are blind, when the eyes give out the brain gets quicker. When the right leg gives down, the left leg gets quicker. When the hope gives out, the hope-giver gets quicker. The same way you got things going against you, you’ve got things going for you.
Paul says, “I’ve learned the secret.” A whole lot of us been coming to church all our lives, haven’t learned the secret. Been praying all of our lives, haven’t learned the secret. I don’t see how you can call yourself a Christian, and then when hard times come, you lock yourself in your room and go into depression. Don’t even come to church anymore, can’t half eat anymore, hair falling out, fingernails dropping off. Call yourself a Christian? Didn’t you hear Paul say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”? I can endure all things through Christ who strengthens me. Didn’t you hear the Psalmist say, “Weeping may endure for a night,” Psalms 30, “Joy comes in the morning”? Didn’t you hear the old slaves say, “By and by, when the morning comes”?
The mystery cults at the time of Paul, like our modern fraternities and sororities, the mystery cults, you had to be initiated like our young little Christian fraternity and our young little Christian sorority. You had to know certain secrets. You had a period there where you had to cross the burning sands, our fraternities and sororities, our clubs, our secret societies, the mystery religions. Paul says, “I have learned the secret of the content.” In Greek they call it aftárkis, aftárkis. It means content. I have learned in life how to be content. The mystery religions call the secret self-sufficiency, how to stand on your own, how to be sufficient under yourself. Paul says, “That isn’t the secret I’ve learned. I haven’t learned self- sufficiency because I am nothing, but I have learned God’s sufficiency. I have learned Christ’s sufficiency. I have learned Jesus’ sufficiency. I have learned all sufficiency. When I am in jail, I know somebody who’ll set me free. When I’m being lashed I know somebody who’ll heal my back.”
Have you ever been buked this morning? Have you ever been scorned this morning? I know a man, Jesus of Nazareth. You never walk alone. You know your situation and you know your salvation.
This man in New York catches the ferry every morning. Little Black shoeshine boy goes up to him and, “May I shine your shoes sir?” “Well my boy, all right. Let’s do it son.” From then on, every time that man caught the ferry, the little boy would come up to him, and if he was carrying something he would take his bags. He would take his brush and brush off the man’s clothing if there was lint on it, expecting nothing, nothing in return. Wouldn’t even let the man give him a quarter or 50 cents.
“Why do you do this? Why do you do this?”
“Well, sir, the first time we met you called me ‘my boy.’ I never had anybody that called me ‘my boy.’ I never had anybody who would be my parent, my dad or my mama. I’m all alone. I never had anybody to call me son.”
I want to tell you this morning that you have a Father. Your Father is God. Your Father knows what you can bear. Your Father will be with you at the midnight hour. Your Father will be with you on the ferry. Your Father will be with you when you are homeless. Your Father will be with you when you are alone. Knowledge, get knowledge, knowledge of your situation, knowledge of your salvation.
Secondly, two things, get knowledge and then move from knowledge to power.
Don’t ever tell somebody you are powerless. You are not powerless as long as you know Jesus. Don’t ever tell anybody you’ve reached the end of your rope. If you have, tie a little knot and hang on. Don’t ever tell anybody you don’t have a friend. What a friend we have in Jesus. I have learned the secret of the content. You put me in Beverly Hills, I’m all right. You put me in county jail, I’m all right. You take away everything I’ve got, I’m all right. I’ve got a power. There’s power, wonder-working power in the blood of Jesus. There’s power.
It’s mind power. It’s mind power. Are you serious when you say I woke up this morning with my mind state on who? On Jesus, not on John. To hell with John. If he don’t love me, I don’t love him. On Jane? The hell with Jane. She don’t love me, I don’t love her. On jewels? To hell with jewels. I don’t need jewels. I don’t need a $500 watch to know what time it is. The sun told me what time it is. I woke up. I woke up. I woke up with my mind.
I thank you, Philippians. I thank you, Philippians. I’m in Roman jail now. I’m nearing the end of my journey now. All the way from Philippi you’ve sent me what I need. I thank you the Flame Prison Ministry. I got a gift from a man I’ve been communicating with for eight years. He has 38 more years to go. He sent me the gift, I thank him. He thanks me for what I send. I thank you Philippians. When I left Philippi and went onto Macedonia, you sent me gifts. When I left Macedonia and went on to Thessalonica, you sent me gifts. You’ve been with me all the way. No other church has done this. I have started churches and then they’ve forgotten me. I have fed churches and then they’ve forgotten me, but you never forgot me.
I want to thank you church at Philippi, but while I’m thanking you I want you to know the same way you’ve given to me, I have given to you, because when I give you the Word, I’m giving you something more vital than gold. When I give you the Word, I’m giving you something more vital than bread, more vital than a car. I give to you. You give to me, but God gives to all of us. I want to thank you God this morning, that you give to us. I want to thank you God this morning, that you gave me a voice to sing your praises. I want to thank you God this morning, that you gave me legs to walk down the aisle. I want to thank you God this morning, that when I can’t find my way, you make a way out of no way. I want to thank you.
Knowledge, knowledge is power. Knowledge is power. God will make a way somehow. Brothers, don’t you go around here with your head hung low talking about what you don’t have. You’re the oldest man on Earth. You’ve got a Father who’s crazy about you. Sister, ain’t but one more bridge to cross. That’s to get the family together. We’re getting it back together again. Don’t you go around here talking about what you don’t have.
Whenever you get down, remember that woman who plants that vine, plants it next to a wall. Lord, have mercy, she nurses it. You know how it is to nurse a dream? Pray for it in the morning. Pray for it at noon. Pray for it at sunset. Youknow how it is to be afraid that it’s not going to blossom? She waters it and nurses it and weeds it and prunes it and it gets tall, but it doesn’t blossom. She tries ever harder. She gets a magazine and she studies it, and it doesn’t bloom.
One day her next-door neighbor on the other side of the wall, a woman who is confined to a wheelchair, calls her to the fence and says, “I want to thank you for what you’ve done for me. I want to thank you for the flowers that are blooming. Every morning I come out, I look at those flowers and I want to shout out of this wheelchair.” The woman goes to the wall and looking over, she sees a whole flurry of flowers. They have crept through the cracks in the wall. The seeds and the seedlings and the branches have crept through the crack in the wall. They have blossomed on the other side.
So it is when you’re facing your wall. You can’t see the whole story. Sometimes you’re facing the wall of death. God said joy comes in the morning. Sometimes you’re facing the wall of poverty. Joy comes in the morning. Sometimes you’re facing the wall of abandonment, wall of death. Joy comes in the morning. Can you wait? I can do it. I can do it. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.