In this sermon, Rev. Murray preaches about lust: lust for material possessions, each other, drinking, looking good, etc. He gives statistics about the Black community’s spending habits in comparison to other communities and encourages his congregation to resist these urges and to put the Lord first.
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.
“Eating Helpings of Fruit Daily”
July 14, 2002
Order my steps. Point up and say, “Order my steps!”
Congregation: Order my steps!
As you walk with the God of love, this God tells you, you are not flesh and blood. You are more than flesh and blood. You are more than what you shall eat. You are more than what you shall drink. You are more than what you shall wear. You are more than where you shall live. You are more than what you shall drive. You are more than flesh and blood.
Doctors will tell you that you’re 85 percent water, 90 percent water. And Paul will tell you that you’re only 10 percent flesh. Ninety percent of you is not fed by a hamburger. Ninety percent of you is not driven by a Mercedes. Ninety percent of you isn’t important for them to go to Nordstrom’s. Ninety percent of you doesn’t live on what people think about you. That 90 percent of you is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit. He’s in this place. If you believe it, say, “You’re welcome into this place, Holy Spirit!” If you believe it, say, “Come, Holy Spirit!”
Heavenly dove. With all thy kindling power, kindle the flame of sacred love. Love. Everybody, say, “Love!” Oh, Lord, what a lovely word. Love, it’s time for a harvest. It’s time for a feast. It’s time for the fruit of the spirit.
Too many of us have been abused and rebuked and scorned. Babar told you, I went through some things last week. How many of you went through some things last week? But in spite of all, you are the fruit of love.
In your pew Bibles, turn to page 945. Page 945. Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia. Galatians five, verse 22, there near the bottom of the page. And our radio audience, we continue to love you. Thank you for your letters.
“But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us.”
Everybody, say, “Fruit.”
Here they go! Love. Everybody, say, “Love.”
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. The fruit of the Spirit is love. So, we gonna talk on the subject: eating helpings of fruit daily.
Two things Paul wants us to observe. Number one, avoid a diet of cattiness. Ask your neighbor on the left of you, “Catty?” Yeah, brothers you ask too, ’cause men are just as catty as women. Go ahead. Avoid a diet of cattiness. Beginning in Galatians five, verse 13. For dear brothers and sisters, you’ve been given freedom. Not freedom to do wrong, but freedom to love and serve each other. For the whole law can be summed up in this command. Everybody, say, “Love others as you love yourself.”
Congregation: Love others as you love yourself!
But instead of showing love among yourselves, you are always critical and catty! Everybody, say, “Catty.”
Watch out! Beware of ruining each other. Avoid a diet of cattiness. Cat. Animal fat. Some of us descend to the level of animals, and I don’t know why we call cats and dogs animals. We got some two-legged animals that would put cats and dogs to shame. Paul said some of us have animal fat. We just always got some cattiness. We can’t ever say something nice about somebody or something nice to each other. And we don’t just have to say it with our words, we say it with our face. Mmmm. Or we say it with our body language. We say it with our voice, “Mmmm, where they got that from?” Cattiness. Cattiness.
Paul says we need to watch your tongue. Don’t you agree with Paul? Paul says we have trained every animal on earth. We’ve trained the hippopotamus. We’ve trained the horse. We’ve trained the cow. We put a cowbell on the cow. We’ve trained the billy-goat. We’ve trained the cat. We’ve trained everything in the whole world but the human tongue.
Tell your neighbor on your right, “Watch your mouth.”
Congregation: Watch your mouth!
Did you see that mouth when you told them? “You don’t need to tell me to watch my…” Avoid a diet of cattiness. You can send the tongue to Stanford, Harvard, Yale. You can send the tongue to USC. You can send the tongue to UCLA. You can send the tongue to Florida A&M University. But, the tongue refuses to be educated. The tongue continues in cattiness!
Some people could go to heaven and find something wrong. “Lord, I’m so sick of all this honey! Don’t you have some molasses? Lord, I’m tired of this. Lord, don’t you have some whole wheat bread? Don’t you have some cornbread? Lord, do I have to wear these wings all the time? Lord, can I get me something from Nordstrom’s?” And it ain’t nothing for the Lord to tell you but, “Go to hell!”
“What’s wrong with the people?” Paul says. Paul uses a Greek word which means ecstasy. Everybody, say, “Ecstasy.”
Not that kind. Paul is talking about externals. People are in love with externals. That fascinates Paul. Paul says, “Look’a here, when you look at a human being, you are seeing 90 percent Spirit.” And, if the Spirit is the Spirit of God, it’s the Spirit of love. But you keep looking on the outside. Paul says, “Okay, here’s what you do.”
Unity, stand up! Stand up, unity. Aren’t they beautiful? Are they dressed formally or informally? It’s 100 degrees, 90 degrees, so they say come casual. All you want them to do is what? You ain’t stuntin’ ’bout what’s on the outside. All we want you to do is sing. Sing! Angels, sing. Thank you, children. Don’t be so concerned with ecstasy. The externals.
Poor Black folks. Oh, poor Black folks. Oh, them poor little Black folks. White folks spend $1,700 a year on clothing. Oh, look at the privileged, the power elite spending $1,700 a year on clothing. Poor Black folks spend $1,803 a year on clothing! Turn to your neighbor on your right and say, “You clean.”
Congregation: You clean!
Uh-huh. An average person gives $200 a year to the church. Okay, alright. You ain’t so clean now. What God gone tell you? Go where? Alright, alright. Thirteen percent of the population, and 19 percent of the sales on cosmetics. Uh-huh. Your lipstick. Your rouge. Uh-huh. Your eye makeup. Your eyeshadow. Your toenails. With them rings on them toenails. Thirteen percent of the population, and 34 percent of the hair products. Gotcha now.
You can start in Beverly Hills and walk all the way down to Imperial. You know where you’re gon’ see the fanciest hairdos? You think you gon’ see them in Beverly Hills? Uh-uh. Honey, I gotta get my do’ straight! Bad do’ man, bad do’! Bad ride. That’s 25 percent of the Cadillac sales. Bad ride, man. Externals. Ecstasy.
Well, what’s wrong with that, Paul? People supposed to look good? When they been beaten for four centuries, people dress up. When you been put down, people dress up. When you been called ugly, people dress well and they put on to show you “I am pretty” and once they get pretty, they expect a little praise. “You got it going on. I mean you are a bad sister. You a bad dude man, you got it going on. Hey, hey!”
What’s wrong with that, Paul? Well, I understand. You been told you ain’t nothing. When you get a car, you gon’ shine it up a little bit, and if the crowd is over there and you gotta go over here, you gon’ drive by that crowd first and then go over there. So, they can… alright, ain’t nothing wrong with that.
Here’s the thing that is it. For your ecstasy, you ruin yourself and you ruin others. Oh, I’m so glad Paul ain’t talking to us. Paul is talking to folks 2,000 years ago. Paul says for your externals, you’ll do anything in the world. You’ll sell your internal space to get your external things. For those things you want, you are thingified. You are to the position now where you’ll do anything to get anything.
You’re ruining others. And you’re ruining yourself.
The seven wonders of the old world and the seven wonders of the new world.
You know, the pyramids of Egypt, the hanging gardens of Babylon, the walls of China, the Eiffel Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge. Seven wonders of the old world, seven wonders of the new world, and it took decades to build some of them. It took centuries to build the pyramids. But every single one of them can be torn down in the twinkling of an eye. All it takes is a pilot on an airplane crashing and the Twin Towers come falling down.
It takes God a long time to build us up. It takes one bad decision to tear us down. It takes God a century or better to make us into a believing people. It takes one minute for us to make the wrong decision and to tear it down. Somebody here use to say, “Praise the Lord,” when you came to church, but now you are with the jet set. You are in the fast lane. You are into ecstasy.
Paul says you wanna know what ruin is? Look at verse 16. Paul says that somebody saw… that is one of the great wonders of the world. We didn’t build it. The greatest wonder in the world. Everybody say, “Holy Spirit.”
Congregation: Holy Spirit!
He’s in this place, right now. The Holy Spirit is in this place. One of the great wonders of the world. Thank you, Holy Spirit, because you represent God. And God has sent his Son, and his Son has sent the Holy Spirit, and we want to say thank you, Holy Spirit! Thank you, Holy Spirit! You gave us bread, you gave us meat, you gave us breath, you gave us health. Thank you, Holy Spirit!
And the Holy Spirit says avoid a diet of cattiness. Verse 16. I advise you to obey only the Holy Spirit’s instructions. The Holy Spirit will tell you where to go and what to do, and then you won’t always be doing the wrong things your evil nature wants you to do. See, you got two natures. You got the nature of God and the nature of the world. You got the nature of the Holy Spirit and the nature, let’s call it the unholy spirit. For we naturally love to do evil things that are just the opposite from things that the Holy Spirit tells us to do. And the good things that we want to do when the spirit has its way with us are just the opposite of our natural desires. These two forces within us are constantly fighting each other to win control over us, and our wishes are never free from the pressures. When you are guided by the Holy Spirit, you need no longer force yourself to obey the religious laws.
The Holy Spirit is a prompter. How many times have you said, choir, my mind told me to do so-and-so? Uh-huh. And you didn’t follow your mind, and what did you end up singing? The blues! My mind… the Holy Spirit said, “You better put that bottle in the trash can.” ‘Cause first the man takes a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes the man. You better drink you some coconut juice or something while you still can. But no, we don’t pay any attention to that. The Holy Spirit say, “You better leave that man alone.” But you don’t pay no attention to that.
Oh, Mustang Sally, no! You better slow your Mustang down. But Mustang Sally told you what she was before you bought her that Mustang. Take off that wig I bought you. I’m gonna let your head go bald, but before you bought it, she told you who she was. The Holy Spirit is there. Then you got this other spirit and you’re going to denial. “Oh, it’s gon’ be alright. I don’t pay no attention to that.” We just don’t see it.
This couple riding along in the mountain, going around the curves. He’s driving and then, oh my goodness! She says, “Honey, honey! When you take the curves as fast as that, I am terrified1”
“Then, baby, do what I do. Close your eyes1”
Don’t go into denial. Every single one of us here has two voices in our hearts, in our ears. One voice says do right, one voice says do wrong. One voice says stay loyal, another voice say cheat. One voice says give money to God, another voice says give money down at the retail center. Every single one of us here has two voices, and you can’t pretend you didn’t hear it. Avoid a diet of cattiness.
Well, here’s our second concern. They talked about natural, what comes natural too. Stay away from natural diets. Now we know, that’s why you got salad, because our people need to eat more natural foods. But is Paul talking about the body or the spiritual body? For your natural body, natural diet. For your spiritual body, stay away from natural diets. Remember that song: “Folks are dumb where I come from. They ain’t have much learning. Still, we are happy as can be doing what comes naturally.”
That was before y’all’s time. It was a good time, doing what comes naturally. We go to church on Sunday, right? Four times, right? Sunday school, church, in the afternoon ACE or BYU if it come from, night service, and Wednesday prayer meeting. Going to church on Sunday, going to work on Monday, and you didn’t expect no medal for going to work. “I work,” you don’t get no medal for going to work. You suppose to go to work. And your word meant something. And your relationship meant something. And you took care of your family. Doing what comes naturally.
But, Paul wants you to understand something. Paul says, “That wasn’t natural. That was supernatural.”
See, your flesh is natural. Your God is supernatural. You couldn’t do that naturally without supernaturally going to God. When you go to church on Sunday, it reinforces you so much. You feel a little fire burning and you know a prayer wheel’s turning. Then, you go to job on Monday and you don’t forget you went to church on Sunday. And when you fall on your knees, you say, I thank God that my bed was not my cooling board and my sheet was not my winding sheet. Thank the Lord!
It’s supernatural. Let’s look at verse 19. Galatians five, verse 19. But when you follow your own long inclinations, your lies will produce these evil results. Look at us! Impure thoughts, come on and say amen. Don’t sit up there and act holy. The Holy Spirit will knock your teeth out. Impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, spiritism that is encouraging the activity of demons. Some of us believe in demons–hatred, fighting, jealousy. Oh, Lord! Everybody, say, “Oh, Lord!”
Congregation: Oh, Lord!
And anger. Say, “Oh, Lord!”
Congregation: Oh, Lord!
Hatred and fighting. Say, “Oh, Lord!” Constant effort to get the best for yourself.
Complaints and criticisms. The feeling that everyone else is wrong, except those in your own little crowd. Us four and no more. And there will be wrong doctrine. Some of us fall in some strange religion. Envy, murder, drunkenness, wild parties. Wake up out there! You should go to bed at night when you know you gotta come… All that sort of thing.
Let me tell you again as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But, when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. There is no conflict with religious laws. Those who belong to Christ have nailed their natural evil desires to his cross. Crucified there with him. Stay away from natural diets.
Have consequences of course. Everybody, say, “Actions have consequences! And you and I are at the place now, we do the evil deeds, but don’t wanna suffer the consequences. We just wanna cry. Ya momma told you that brother wasn’t right for you. Ya daddy told you. Ya grandmamma told you. But most of all, the Holy Spirit told you, you need a Christian man. Don’t be unequally yolked. But now, your love is so powerful, your love can do what his mammie couldn’t wit’ him. Your love can do what the sheriff couldn’t do for him. Your love can do what the Holy Spirit couldn’t do wit’ him. ‘Cause you so fine. You and your finery have got you into this whinery, this mess.
Say once more: “Actions have consequences!” Do the crime, do the time. One farm, the man puts a sign on the outside of the fence. On the inside of the fence is one of the biggest, meanest bulls that you could imagine. And the sign is intended to keep trespassers out. The sign says: “Do not attempt to cross this field unless you can do it in 9.9 seconds. The bull can do it in 10 seconds flat.”
Some of us’ll see the sign. That’s a lot of bull! I’m going anyhow. Uh-huh. Didn’t that sign tell you that’s a fast bull? Are you faster than that bull? Then, if you’re full of bull, go on and join the bull, but if you got any sense, you’ll walk around that field. That ain’t what God wants for you. God wants you to take the high ground, and that bull is just singing, “Bring it to Jesus. Bring it to Jesus, and I’ll take it from there.”
Avoid the natural diet. Nail your sins to the cross. Leave this morning, saying, “Oh, Lord! I wanna do better!” Leave this morning saying, “I nailed my sins to the cross!” Kneel this morning, leaving that old mean, hateful you in the pew and let that loving spirit come forth. Leave this morning knowing that what the world needs now is love. Kneel this morning at that cross. See those women who are in the city of Jerusalem and they know that crucifixion is a terrible way to die. They can’t do anything about the cross, but they get some vinegar, and they go out when a man is crucified, and they put the vinegar in a bucket, and then they take some thistle branch, dip it in the vinegar, lift it up to the condemned criminal, “Drink this. We can’t do much for you, but somehow the love will carry you on. Drink this.”
Coming home now. Stand up a minute. Stand up, stand up. How many of you know Countee Cullen, the African American poet? Yes, Countee Cullen. We have a generation that doesn’t know him. “When I was eight years old, my folks took me to Baltimore.” Anybody from Baltimore? Wonderful city.
“Took me to Baltimore. I was eight years old. When I got there, a little white boy looked at me. He was staring at me. I smiled. He didn’t smile back, but he stuck out his tongue and called me a nigger.”
Years later, hear the words Countee Cullen the poet writes: “I saw the whole of Baltimore from May until September. Of everything that happened there, that’s all I can remember.”
Tell your neighbor on your right, “Little things mean a lot.” Little things like a hug. Like a kiss. Like a phone call. Like saying, “I love you, Lord.” Maybe you haven’t said it all week. Little things mean a lot.
The fruit of the Spirit. Look at us standing to our feet, Lord, when there are so many crippled. Yesterday, at 6:00 in the morning, I stood at the bedside of a small child. Christian is his name. Little baby boy in Children’s Hospital, and tubes were everywhere, and he was fighting for every breath. All Reverend Green and I could do was lay our hands upon this child and say, “I love the Lord!”