“You will have worry, but listen to this: Don’t worry about your worry!” Cecil Murray addresses doubt in this sermon, affirming to his congregation that it is normal to have doubts, but always to trust and have faith in the Lord. God says to possess your own life and not to let things like doubt possess you.
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.
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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.
“Dancing Before the Rainmaker”
January 7, 2001
Can’t help myself. Can’t help myself. Everybody say, “God help me!” Say it again: “God help me!”
Healing for the soul. That’ll take us this year, healing for the soul. Making a pathway for the soul, that’ll take us this month. If your soul is going into the new year, then your soul is going to need a new agenda, especially if you’re going into the promised land. The promised land is what God has promised you in the new year. Tell your neighbor on your left, “I’m bound for the promised land.”
I’m bound for the promised land. The promised land: Canaan, Canaan, not California. California is under the personal supervision of the governor. Canaan is under the personal supervision of the Lord. When the Lord makes you a promise, the Lord is going to keep it.
Let’s hear the Lord’s promise. Turn to page 159 in your pew Bibles. Deuteronomy 11 in our radio audience, Deuteronomy 11, beginning at verse 7, page 159, verse 7. Thank you for rising.
“But you’ve seen these mighty miracles. How carefully then you should obey these commandments I’m going to give you today so that you may have the strength to go in and possess the land you are about to enter. If you obey the commandments, you will have a long and good life in the land the Lord promised to your ancestors and to their descendants, a wonderful land flowing with milk and honey, for the land you are about to enter and possess is not like the land of Egypt, where you’ve come from, where irrigation is necessary.”
“It is a land of hills and valleys with plenty of rain, a land that the Lord your God personally cares for. God’s eyes are upon it day after day throughout the year, and if you will carefully obey all of God’s commandments that I am going to give to you today, and all of you will love the Lord your God with all your hearts and souls, and will worship God, then God will continue to send both the early and late rains that will produce wonderful crops of grain, grapes, your wine and olive oil. God will give you lush pasture land for your cattle to graze in and you yourselves shall have plenty to eat and be fully content.”
With that promise, take your seats.
He will continue to send both the early and late rains. Our subject, dancing before the rainmaker: dancing, dancing, dancing, not doubting! As you go into the new promised era, you will have doubts. I may have doubts and fears. My eyes may be filled with tears, but there is One who watches me day and night. You will have worry, but listen to this. Don’t worry about your worry! Did you not hear God say, “Possess the land?” Possess your dream. Possess the new year. Possess the new era. Don’t let it possess you! Possess the land. Some of us are too doubtful. We don’t believe anything positive is going to happen. Last year was the bad. This year is going to be bad. Ain’t nothing going to make a difference in my life.
Helen Hayes was cooking her first turkey for her family. She said to them, “Now, this is my first time cooking a turkey. I’m going to bring the turkey out. If you like it, we will eat it. If you don’t like it, please don’t say anything. We’ll all get up from the table and go down to the hotel and dine.”
She goes into the kitchen, brings out the turkey. Seated at the table are her husband and her son with their hats on and their coats on. We’re so filled with doubt, going to come here and pray. Everybody say, “Health.” You’re going to ask God to give you your health, then health starts on the inside. You’ve got to believe God can do what God promises you.
One of the greatest worries we moderns have is economics. Am I going to have enough money? You don’t sleep when your money’s funny, do you? No, my Lord God! You can’t live without money. Every sixth word Jesus spoke was about money, but listen to this old-time saying about economics. Good morality and good religion make good economics. Good morality, treating people right, good religion, talking to God right, makes good money. Now if you broke in December, one of them things you ain’t been keeping. Have you got good religion? Have you got good religion? Is your name written down? Do you love everybody? Uh oh. Do you love anybody?
Never I have seen the righteous forsaken. Listen to that word. Where does it come from? Psalms 37:25, “Never have I seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed go begging for bread.” If you belong to God, God will feed you. If you belong to God, God will clothe you and house you and heal you. Even if you should die, God will lift you up. Never have I seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed go begging for bread!
You will have to fight for bread. Now don’t make any mistake about that. I never promised you a rose garden. You will have to fight for bread, but you will never have to fight over bread. God will take care of you if you trust and never doubt. God will surely bring you out. Take your burdens to the Lord and leave them there. If you believe it, come on and say, “Yeah!” Dancing, dancing before the rainmaker, dancing, not doubting.
Second: dancing, not draining. Oh, my Lord! Last year drained some of us. I know one family that had five deaths in last year. That has completely drained that family. I know one person who changed jobs five times last year, completely drained. Families that went through divorce, completely drained, their children getting into trouble, completely drained, losing a lawsuit, completely drained, hearing the doctor tell you things don’t look too good, completely drained. I know somebody here right now, completely drained, but I want to tell you what God promised. As you go into the new year, you are drained, but you are not dry. Tell your neighbor on your right, “I don’t feel no ways tired!”
Y’all know that song? Brought me too far to leave me. I don’t feel no ways tired. Come too far from where I started from. Remember where you started from last year. Healing, nobody told me that the road would be easy. I can’t believe he brought me this far to leave me! Let’s sing a chorus of it.
Look where you came from! Look where you came from: Egypt! Egypt is a great land, but what do they say in Zechariah 14:18, “Egypt has no rain.” Water is always the source of prosperity. Egypt has no rain. Egypt is flatland. In season the Nile River overflows. During that season you have to get buckets of water and take that to the water wheel which has some pumps. Those pumps have foot power. You have to pedal those pumps from can’t see to can’t see, so that as the psalmist says, “My feet get tired in Egypt from pumping the water pumps.” When the water overflows, the mud is knee-high. I have to walk in the mud knee-high to bring water to the pumps.
The psalmist says, “My feet get tired.” Somebody here above the age of 70 knows what it is from coming down out of Egypt in the south. Your feet get tired. Somebody here is sitting in church right now with your shoes off. My feet get tired. That’s why we sing, “Sit down servant! Sit down. Rest your feet a while.” But they’re not servants here. I don’t feel no ways tired. I just can’t sit down. I’ve got to tell it to somebody, what I think about the goodness of the Lord! When I think about how far the Lord has brought me, my soul cries, “Glory!”
Drained, but now going into a new land, not flat but hilly. Valleys and hills, how picturesque! It doesn’t have a lot of rivers. The Jordan River is there, but we get our source of supply because God sends the rain. God sends the rain. They tell us God sends the former rain and God sends the latter rain. The former rain comes when the earth is parched and dry. All winter that rain loosens up that dry soil. Then in April and May comes the latter rain, the latter rain to fertilize the crops so that you can just sit in your living room and look at the rain. You don’t have to do it. God sends the rain. Somebody here has felt the shower of God’s blessings! Somebody here has felt the goodness of the Lord! Somebody here is sitting in your living room looking at the rain falling right now and the crops growing, dancing, dancing. Not draining, dancing, not doubting!
Thirdly, dancing because delivered. You’ve been delivered from one enemy I know of. Everybody here has been delivered from one enemy that we all know about. You may not have been delivered from poverty. God is going to do that. You may not have been delivered even from homelessness. God is going to do that. You may not have been delivered from the disparities in your relationship. God is going to do that, but I know one enemy everybody here has been delivered from.
That enemy that Paul calls the last enemy: death. Everybody here is alive, is alive, is alive! Death, where is thy victory? Oh grave! We and God, we in the delivery business. That’s God’s business! God is in the delivery business. You and I, since God has delivered us, we going to deliver somebody else. God delivers us life. We’re going to use that life. God delivers us the seed. We’re going to plant that seed. God delivers us sunshine. We’re going to bring the sunshine into somebody else’s life. God delivers us breath. We’re going to pass the breath. You, God and I, we are all in the delivery business.
The former rain, remember when your life was so hard? Remember when you were suffering and didn’t know where the rent money was coming from? Remember when you didn’t have seemed like a friend in the world and you knelt by the side of your bed and before you got up the phone was ringing with somebody saying, “I just called to say I love you?” Remember when you went for your annual physical and you were scared to death, and you walked out the room shouting because the doctor said, “I’ll see you next year?” Remember, remember how God sent the former rains to soak the hard earth? You’re not going to let your heart become hard again. You’re not going to ever let a week or a day pass where you don’t tell somebody: I love you! Do that right now. Tell your neighbor, “I love you.”
Then comes the latter rain. After the little crops grow, God sends the rain. You begin to flourish so that you come to God’s house this morning. You aren’t making any resolutions that you’re going to break by the time you hit the parking lot. You are resolved: “I’m going to come to God’s house every Sunday morning my head is hot. I’m going to have morning prayers when I get up and evening prayers when I retire. I’m going to put my arms around my family and say, “I love you.” I’m going to love somebody. I’m going to live somebody.
We’re going to start right now. Everybody, stand up because it’s raining, the shower of God’s blessing. Rodney, I want you to give us some dance music. Everybody under this ceiling is going to dance! If you can’t dance just pat your foot. Let’s go!