“It ain’t the Lord that’s lost if you can’t find the Lord,” Pastor Murray says, making the point that if you don’t try to find Jesus, you won’t. He urges his congregation to stop playing hide and seek–looking for rewards and having expectations without first being dedicated to finding the Lord.
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.
“I Don’t Have Cable, Lord!”
February 22, 1993
There isn’t but one question for us Christians this morning: Have you tried Jesus?
Speaker 2: He’s all right!
Have you tried Jesus?
Speaker 2: He’s all right!
That’s all we’ve got. That’s all we’ve got. That’s all. That’s all we’ve got. When the storm of life is raging, that’s the anchor. Or when we are consumed by the fires of life, that’s the cooler. Thank you, Lord. Maybe you haven’t had your spiritual aerobics this morning. Raise your right hand, at the top of your voice, say, “Praise the Lord!” Raise the left hand with it and say, “Praise the Lord!” Now let everything that has breath, “Praise the Lord!”
His first name is Bill. All of his life, he’s been an alcoholic. Starts drinking when he’s eight years old. Hot temper. He gets in a fight and gets so much damage to his eye, they start calling him Black-eyed Bill. Goes through middle age, then he approaches senior-citizen status, and they call him Old Bill. Some of us get so old in our ways, we think we can’t change, don’t we? And then somebody told him about Jesus. Bill have you tried Jesus? Old Bill, Drunk Bill, Fighting Bill, have you tried Jesus? Miracle of miracles, he did try Jesus. I guess when everything else has gone wrong, if you got any sanity at all, you’ll try something else.
Now they call Old Bill New Bill. New Bill. God’ll make you a new person this morning. God’ll make you a new man, a new woman this morning. Some of us can’t become New Bill, because we’re too worried about dollar bill or grocery bill or credit card bill. The Lord knows that in times like these, you need savings, but the Lord knows even more so in times like these, you need a Savior. And I have a Savior for you. His name is Christ the Lord. Have you tried Jesus? He’s all right. He’s a lily in the valley. He’s all right. Bright and morning star, he’s all right. The fairest of 10,000, he’s all right. Eight hundred years before little Jesus cried in the world, a brilliant prophet of the Old Testament reminded you and me of a real charge: “Seek the Lord while the Lord may be found.” Isaiah 55, verse 6. Seek the Lord while the Lord may be found. Call upon the Lord’s name while the Lord is near.
We make all kind of excuses when it comes to seeking the Lord. We can seek the 39th race out at Hollywood Park, or we can seek the winning table at Las Vegas, or we can seek that brother or that sister when we get a case of love for them. We can seek out the champagne, but we can’t seek the Lord. So, our subject’s going to be: I don’t have cable, Lord!
You’re trying to find the Lord and you can’t find the Lord, it ain’t the Lord that’s lost. Come on out and say Amen. It ain’t the Lord that’s lost if you can’t find the Lord. It ain’t the Lord that’s lost. If you perennially crying, “Poor me! Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen,” it ain’t God that’s poor. God says the cattle on a thousand hills of mine. If you walking around copping a pity party, just feel depressed, it ain’t the Lord that’s depressed this morning. If you have tears and the shadows fall, it ain’t God living in the nighttime. Look, a new day has begun. If you feel lost, it ain’t the Lord that’s lost.
Mother complains of losing her child, what a pain, what a pain. And she says to her first born, “Little baby has gone to be with Jesus.” And later the child hears the mother say to her neighbor, “I’m so sorry. I have lost my baby.” And that troubled the little girl. She says, “Mommy, is a thing lost when you know where it is?” No, of course not, child! How could you say to Miss Smith, “Little baby is lost. Isn’t little baby with Jesus?” A slaver, running his slave ship, carousing just like Old Bill, drinking all of his life, cared nothing about human nature. Every other person would just stack the slaves in casually. He would stock them in like sardines, one on top of another, and he allowed for how many would be lost in the mid-Atlantic crossing.
You knew his name: John Newton. And then he met Jesus, and he went on to witness, “I once was lost, but now I am found.” I am found. I didn’t find God. God isn’t lost. You don’t have to find God this morning. God is looking to find you. I once was lost and then God found me. If God finds you, you’re never the same again. Newton has to go back from enslaving to setting free. If you are not found this morning, there’s no way we can let the homeless walk these streets without saying, “I’ll find a home for you.” The hungry walk without finding bread for them, the thirsty without giving the waters of life: Whoa, everyone who is thirsty, come and drink! Everyone who is hungry, come and eat! Everyone who is lonely, come and find a friend in me!
Is a thing lost when you know where it can be found? Some of us, when we change addresses, we forget to tell the church our new address. We forget to give the Post Office a change of address card. That’s the way we often deal with God. We move, and we forget to tell God where to find us. We came from Watts, and Mama was on welfare, and we managed to get to Howard University, and now we are living in Beverly Hills, and we haven’t told God how to find us. An intensive care unit, Reverend Green and I hold hands, and oh Lord when I get out of here, I’m going to work with the church a little bit more. I’m going to visit the sick because I know what it is to be sick. And time we get on our feet, we forget to tell God where our new address is. We forget to send God a change of address. I once was lost and now I’m found. And since I got found, I don’t want God to know where I am. I’m making too much money now to serve the Lord. I’m too educated now to serve the Lord. I’m too sophisticated now to serve the Lord. I once was lost, but now I’m found.
Then I get lost all over again. That’s the cycle of human nature. The Garden of Eden, outside the Garden of Eden, back in the Garden of Eden, outside … why don’t we stabilize? If we love the Lord, why don’t you love the Lord when things are good and when things are bad? If you love the Lord, why don’t you love the Lord when you got a support group and when every person’s hand is set against you? If you love the Lord, why don’t you love the Lord at five o’clock in the morning, just as you love the Lord at five o’clock in the afternoon? If you love the Lord, why can’t you love the Lord when you’re in jail as well as when you’re on the sidewalk? If you love the Lord when everything’s all right, why can’t you love the Lord when everything’s all wrong?
Pastor, you haven’t seen me at church much. I’ve been having some problems. I’m trying to get myself together. Sweetheart, you’re trying to get yourself together without the glue of God? You’re trying to get your program right without the programmer? You’re trying to get your stuff together and your stuff is so scattered, only God can fix you together? Come on to the house of the Lord. Here, bring your wounded heart. Here, tell your anguish: It has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal. Something said in the Scripture, something said in the prayer, something said in the sermon, something sung by the choir may cause your spine to tingle. So, the old folks used to say: “Holy, holy, holy! Somebody touch me!” And it must have been the hand of the Lord. God can find you.
Talking about the lost. God doesn’t go into action until you get lost. You ain’t seen God do God’s thing until you say, “Father, I stretch my hand to Thee! No other help I know.” And then you hear God knocking at your door. I found you at last. You thought you had gotten away from me, because you ended up incarcerated. You thought you had gotten away from me because you moved out to Ingle-Watts. You thought you had gotten away from me because now you got your Master’s degree. But I caught the old coon at last. I found you at last. I once was lost, but now I’m found. I’m just out here knocking at your door.
Problem is some people don’t know the difference between God knocking and the pizza man knocking. You send out for pizza, you will have pizza for three or four hours. As the Bible says, everything that goes inside comes out in the draft. I think you know what the draft is. If you’re blessed, you do. But as something that can go inside of you, can set your soul on fire, so that our old African patriarchs could say, “It don’t matter what they are calling me, it ain’t the name you call me, it’s the name I answer to that counts.” And when things are all wrong for you and somebody sees you, skipping along, and with sarcasm says, “You sure are happy today!” I’m happy every day! I sing because I’m happy. I sing because I’m free. For as I, and I know…
Get a chance, read First Chronicles, chapter 28, verse 9. David, 1,000 B.C., Solomon my son, I wasn’t allowed to build the temple. Things about me are for starting a nation, and God can’t use me to build the temple because God needs somebody clean like you. Solomon, stay close to the Lord. Stay close to the Lord, son, because Solomon, if you ever walk away from God, God will walk away from you. Early birds, when God stands at your door and knocks, you better open that door. When God whispers to you, you’re eating too much or you’re eating the wrong thing, you better listen to God. If God says to you, you better leave that woman alone, you better leave that man alone, you better listen to God. If God says to you, you sleeping too much, you better shake, rattle and roll and go climb every mountain and knock on every door and find a job. You better listen to God!
If God says to you, turn yourself in for substance abuse, you better listen to God. Seek the Lord while you can find the Lord. The time will come when you look out your door, and God’ll be going around the corner. It’s a bad thing to see God’s back. It’s a bad thing, and then God ain’t no yo-yo you can throw away and reel it back in. God says, when I’m gone, I’m gone. Seek the Lord. Some people play hide and seek. You know that game? Some of these, I don’t have to come to church to find God. I can find God at home. Now here you are looking for somebody in the city, and instead of you getting the white pages, instead of you calling people you know, instead of you looking for him on the Post Office wall or on the police records, you looking for him in your living room. You looking for her in your kitchen. You looking for him in your bed. That’s your husband or your wife or whatever; that ain’t God.
If you’re going to find God, you got to come to God’s house. And then you discover a beautiful thing in God’s house. Not only is this mortar God’s house, but this is my Father’s wall, the whole house belongs to God. But God says you come to this house, and you plug in and then I’ll send you out on a long extension cable. And when you walk out to the parking lot, somebody’ll say there is somebody who knows the Lord. And when you broke, you’ll still be shouting for joy. When your health is broken, you’ll still be shouting for joy. Don’t play hide and seek with the Lord. I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.
Some people come to the Lord’s house still not seeking the Lord. They come looking for everything but the Lord. They just come looking. That sure is bad what she’s got on. Oh man, ain’t that sister fine? I wish they’d stop all that loud music. I wish they’d get rid of them drums. I wish they wouldn’t do all that boogaloo. They done turn my church into a jook joint. My church. Is that you hanging on Calvary in my church? Is that lying in the tomb, my church? Is that you, God, patting on the head, said you did it, you took it to the fullest extreme? Is that you shouting at the last moment of your life, “It is finished. I done done what you told me to do!” Is that you talking about my church? Do you mean it’s my church, because you’ve been here longer than the church mouse? The church mouse ain’t doing nothing but waiting for the midnight hour. What you waiting on, my church?
It’s not a jook joint. We’ve turned it a Hallelujah joint. And ain’t done nothing but what God told us to do in the Psalm is praise Him with the drums. Praise Him with the harp. Praise Him with the flute. Praise Him with the heavenly host. Praise him with your feet. Praise him with your face. Praise him with your voice. Let everything that is within me…
Of course, it ain’t your fault. It ain’t your fault if you ain’t got no juices. It ain’t your fault. You can’t belch if you ain’t eat nothing. You can’t scratch if you don’t itch. You can’t have good religion if you ain’t got no religion. Too many people want the house of the Lord without the Lord or the house. God told me, “Son, don’t you come to church raining on them folks. You start by the altar first and get yourself together. And you go into that sanctuary, and you go on fire saying it is no secret what the Lord can do.” You can’t have the Lord’s house without the Lord of the house.
You remember Flip Wilson? Sir, what religious denomination are you? I’m a Jehovah’s Bystander. Excuse me, Mr. Wilson, you mean you a Jehovah’s Witness? No, I’m a Jehovah’s Bystander. I don’t want to get that involved. Want Calvary’s mountain without Calvary’s cross. We want to be able to say what a beautiful mountain. We want the crown without the cross. But if you’re willing to take Calvary’s cross, I just want to tell you, you don’t have to look for the Lord this morning, darlings. The Lord is looking for you. You couldn’t find the Lord unless the Lord was looking for you. Lord says, “I stand at the door of your heart and I just knocked, and the latch is on the inside. All you have to do is open the door.”
You can’t find the Lord unless the Lord is looking for you.
One beautiful brother who’s been married 53 years, said, “Pastor, I chased her ’til she caught me.” If you chasing the Lord, He’s here, He’s here for you. Seek Him. Reach out with your right hand. Say, “Come into my heart, Lord Jesus!” Oh my gosh, some can’t even say that! Say it again, “Come into my heart, Lord Jesus!” Maybe this is the first time this week or today you’ve had a chance to talk intimately with the Lord. Maybe the Lord would be greatly moved and appreciative if he could hear your voice or mine, every voice say, “Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.” Come on choir and say, “Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.” Balcony say, “Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.” Come on balcony and say, “Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.”
Want you to learn how to witness, balcony, because if you ashamed of me before people, I’ll be ashamed of you before my God. Want you to learn how to witness, balcony, because you high up but you got to serve the Lord. Come on everybody and say, “Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come into to stay. Come in today. Come in to my heart, Lord Jesus.” Now put your hands together and thank the Lord!