In this sermon, Pastor Murray tells his congregation that “you never outgrow your need for God.” He encourages them to continually re-evaluate themselves, learn delayed gratification and to handle problems with the intellect, not instinct.
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.
“Never Too Wise for God to Teach You”
June 16, 1996
That’s all we’ve got: the love of God. It was just mediated through the creative artistry of Joe Westmoreland, Charles May, Carol Dennis. Give them a hand.
Thank you, Lord. You look so very good. You look so good. Some of us men are upstairs, the vast majority are downstairs. We’re talking on the theme, brothers: Aren’t you getting a little old for this?
Sisters, much will pertain to you. Take what is relevant. Brothers need to talk to each other, and if you’ll just tune in on the party line you can help us a little bit by helping us help ourselves. Aren’t you getting a little bit old for this? This what? Blaming, gaming, shaming, maiming. Sisters, it pertains here, too. Teach your sons don’t go around blaming the woman in their life. Your woman is not responsible for you. Your woman can’t take away your manhood. If you had any manhood to begin with, she can’t take it away.
Don’t go through life looking for somebody to blame. You and God are captain of the ship—don’t blame the crew; it’s your ship, cut out the blaming. Aren’t you getting a little old for this blaming, gaming? Daughters, daughters, you got good intelligence. Daughter, when somebody comes up to you, “Hey, Mama,” he’s telling you something right now. What’s he looking for? You looking for a son?
You don’t find a son on the sidewalk, you find a son in the maternity ward. You got to make up your mind. Turn to your neighbor on your right and say, “Don’t you know when you being gamed?” Now, turn right back to the same person and ask them, “Then why do you play games?” Aren’t you getting a little old for this?
Shaming. Teach your sons you got my name. You got your daddy’s name. You got your clan’s name. Don’t shame your family. Teach your children a sense of shame. Shaming, blaming, gaming, maiming. Every 70 minutes a Black man kills a Black man. Sisters, they are saying that downstairs. They are talking plain.
They’re telling them, “We got to stop this,” and got to stop this maiming stuff, too, sisters. Ain’t nobody as hard on a sister as a sister is on a sister. Ain’t no need of you fighting her over him. If you get him, in six months he’s going back to her. You’re a woman, you’re not a ping-pong ball! Raise your right hand. You gonna make a promise in God’s house for one week. We ain’t asking two weeks. This word y’all call y’all, that female dog. You know what I’m talking… Don’t go getting holy on me now. That one has a long skinny tail. Y’all are known for having another kind of tail. “I will not…” repeat “I will not…”
Congregation: …I will not…
Cecil Murray: …during this week…
Congregation: …during this week…
Cecil Murray: …call any woman…
Congregation: …call any woman…
Cecil Murray: …by the B word.
Congregation: …by the B word.
Cecil Murray: Thank you. Thank you. Aren’t you getting a little bit old for this foolishness? Not
blaming but aiming, that’s our goal, aiming at wisdom. We get our wisdom teeth at an older age. They call them wisdom teeth because by that age we old enough to know better. But, we got word for you, it ain’t the teeth, it ain’t the tongue how old you are, it’s the trust. It’s whether you trust in God to give you some wisdom. Wisdom don’t come with your teeth. Wisdom don’t come at age 40. You got some 50-year-old fools and some 5-year-old geniuses.
First Kings, chapter 12, verse 6. Rehoboam, the king, talked it over with the old men who had counseled his father, Solomon. “What do you think I should do?” he asked them, and they replied, “If you give them, the people, a pleasant reply and then agree to be good to them and serve them well, you can be their king forever.”
Listen to foolishness. But, Rehoboam refused the old men’s counsel and called in the young men with whom he had grown up. Our subject: never too wise for God to teach you. In a few minutes, before the men come up, we gonna talk about two things, rehabilitate and rehabilitate your attitude. Rehabilitate just means take what you have and work with it. You are not what is given you, you are not what is given, you are what you are. Don’t go around here crying about this man in your life. That came to you from the outside; you are what’s on the inside. Now, don’t go around talking about how bad your job is or how bad your economics are. You are not what happens to you, you are what happens within you.
That’s why they sing that song, “Have You That Something Within?” Have you that something, then you have to play the cards that are dealt you. You thought you had the best family in the world, but a year later, 10 years later you found you didn’t have a good family at all. You can’t go back and live with your dreams, you got to take what you got and make some decisions from there. You can’t go through life crying all the time. You got to take the hand that’s dealt you. One out of three of you here have been sexually abused. Downstairs one out of six have been sexually abused. Well, you can’t go through life rubbing your scars; you got to go on from there. You can’t say that all men are no good because your uncle took you, or your daddy took you, or your brother took you, or your cousin took you, or somebody broke in the house and took you. It leaves scars, but bring them to the altar of God and get up from the altar.
You got to play the hands that are dealt. You got to play the cards that are dealt you, and every hand isn’t a dead man’s hand. You got to stop acting as if life is bad. Come on and put some joy in life. Every hand is not a dead man’s hand, and every card, every deck, has a joker in it, but don’t you be the joker. When God tells you that ain’t good for you, walk away from it. When God tells you to go right don’t go to the left.
Rehabilitate means take what you have and work with it. This thing of jealousy is not becoming you at all. If some other woman has eyes, what do you care, you got fingers? If somebody else has hips, what do you care, you got ankles? Somebody else got legs, what do you care, you got brains? Somebody else got a husband, what do you care, there are a lot of single ones out there? Somebody else got children, what do you care, go adopt some? Stop wanting what you ain’t got! You have to take the hand that’s been dealt you.
Jesus took what He had to work with. Jesus took out on the water in a borrowed boat. Jesus fed 5,000 with a borrowed schoolboy’s lunch. Jesus ate the Last Supper in a borrowed chamber. Jesus was buried in a borrowed tomb. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed ass. But, Jesus didn’t have to borrow his light. He says, “God is light.” John says, “The true light that’s God has come into the world.” Jesus was in darkness on Friday. Jesus was in darkness on Saturday. Jesus was in darkness on Saturday night, but early Sunday morning, I saw the light. I saw the light. Thank God Almighty, I saw the light!
Rehabilitate. Rehabilitate. Take the darkness you working with. Your son is not doing too well, bring him to the church and put him in the 27 programs. The darkness is only temporary. The darkness of self-hatred is only temporary. The darkness of self-destruction is only temporary. The darkness of our men acting ignorant is only temporary. The darkness of our men getting physical with our women is only temporary. In the morning, God sends the light, but first you must say: “I saw the light!” I saw the light. Thank God Almighty, I saw the light. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Secondly, [let it be] said: Not only rehabilitate, but rehabilitate your attitude. Downstairs the men are agreeing, we gonna check out our attitude. We gonna check out these filthy names we call our women. We gonna check out this getting physical with our women. When our women frustrate us, or we frustrate ourselves, we gonna check out this saying that our women are all the same, when people are different. We gonna check out this being a weebee, and don’t you go around here supporting a weebee. You know what a weebee is. Mama, we be living in your house. We be eating out your refrigerator. We be driving your car. We be spending your money.
Solomon needed to check out his attitude. Solomon is the third king of Israel. There’s Saul, there’s David, now there’s Solomon. The kingdom spread to its greatest under Solomon. The people were living like Americans are living, every bit of luxury in the world the people had. Solomon is listed as the wisest man who ever lived. But, no matter how wise you are, you never outgrow your need for God. You never get so wise that God can’t teach you another lesson. Solomon needed to understand, you can’t let power go to your head. You can’t let power corrupt you. Lord Acton says, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Solomon had absolute power. Solomon put a tax on the people that was more than a third of everything they earned. The people were groaning. Solomon needed to learn you can’t go too far with power.
Brothers got to learn you can’t go too far with the power struggle. No woman is your servant. You don’t know anything more than another woman knows, a woman knows, you got to sit down and talk it out. You can’t rule by [brute] body strength. You can’t rule by the power of economics. You ain’t paying the cost to be the boss, because she working just as hard as you working. Solomon’s foolishness split the kingdom, just as chauvinistic foolishness can split the family. Ain’t nobody putting up with no boss no more. You get up and hit that freeway. You come home and you hit the wash tub, or you hit the kitchen refrigerator. You got the right to be yourself. You ain’t taking abuse off nobody.
Solomon needed to get ahold of himself. Israel needed to get ahold of itself. Israel wanted the fringe benefits of taxes without paying the dues of taxes. Like some people want to belong to the church and don’t pay no dues. You don’t even understand it takes us $60,000 dollars a week just to keep the ship going, and you come and you giving us hamburger money. The people of Israel wanted the fringe benefits of being taxed without the taxes themselves, just like you want to go off with who you want even when your mama told you that “You know what ain’t no you know what.” Your daddy told you that “You know what ain’t no you know what.” I told you that “You know what ain’t no you know what.” You told yourself, “You know what ain’t no what,” but then you go, “I love him.” Turn to your neighbor on your left and ask, “What’s love got to do with it?” Loving the wrong thing, you gonna be waiting to exhale till your butt explode.
Look at Solomon with two loves, Yahweh, God, the God who made him everything he is, and Moloch the god he found, that this Pagan god to whom they’d offer child sacrifices, like taking little Chris and sacrificing him to Moloch. Instead of Solomon staying with God, Solomon strayed over with Moloch. Some here are making that same mistake. Instead of staying with the God who brought you where you are, the God you knew about in Mississippi and Alabama, you’ve already gone to the god of Hollywood. Instead of you taking the one that’s square, the one that’s a nerd, you got to have the “Hey Mama” one. You don’t choose between the two.
You ought to understand you can’t have both things at the same time. You can’t have both things. You got to tell him. You can’t have the living room and the bar room at the same time. You can’t have the golf club and the night club at the same time. You can’t have monogamy and polygamy at the same time. You can’t have a single status and married status at the same time. You got to choose. You can’t have God and Moloch at the same time.
My senior year, Florida A&M, ’51. They brought all the football stars on stage and they gave each a bundle of flowers. They brought their girlfriends on stage. Now, you walk from here to give your girlfriend a bunch of flowers. What a beautiful moment it was. Wilbur Gary was All-American center. Wilbur Gary was so sexy when he walked by, the roses melted. Wilbur Gary had three girlfriends, and the committee was gonna get Wilbur. They brought all three girlfriends up on the stage!
There’s the dilemma: one bunch of flowers, three girlfriends. Wilbur Gary walked the stage, and the brothers were dying, and they, “Ah!” Wilbur Gary pulled out his handkerchief and wiped his brow. Wilbur Gary got on his knees and lifted up his hands, then he got up and he took his bunch of flowers and he almost closed his eyes. He walked over to the one he loved the best and he put the flowers in her hand, and the other two had to walk away. That’s the way it is with God. You got to put the flowers in God’s hands. You got to put your life in God’s hands. You got to put your future in God’s hands. You got to put your tomorrow in God’s hands. You cannot serve both God and Moloch.
Give me two more minutes, because I want to tell you about Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, the fourth king under whom the kingdom was split. He wasn’t too smart, and he knows not, and he knows that he knows not, so he goes to the wise men of the village. They tell him, “Cut the taxes, Son! Cut them now. Deny yourself now, and the people will affirm you forever.”
That’s what we’re teaching right now. Son, learn how to deny yourself. Learn delayed gratification. Learn that you can’t have everything you want, but you can have everything you need. Learn to look down the road. Learn not to handle everything with your instincts, but with your intellect. He heard the old men, then he leaves them and goes over to his guys, the elders who are in his category, his classmates, the 40-year-olds. They played games together. They knew each other growing up. They were his gang, and his gang says to him when he asked, “What should I do? Should I cut the taxes?” His gang says, “No, don’t cut the taxes. Double the taxes! Anybody disagree with you, whip them.”
Well, Sister, you gonna find fools like that. But, Israel rose up and said, “Look it here, Rehoboam, you whip slaves, you don’t whip free people,” so the empire split. The ten tribes up North. Rehoboam and his two tribes down South. Israel in the North, Judah in the South. Daughters, if you got any sense; Sons, if you got any sense, you don’t take abuse anymore. Slaves take whips, free people don’t take whips. You got some dignity under God. God says, “Clean your plate. Hold it up in front of me. Tell me what you want. I’ll give it to you.” Don’t take the first thing that comes along. I got some fire this morning. I want you to use your wisdom. I want you to say, “I saw the light. I saw the light. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!”