In this sermon, Cecil Murray encourages people to get in touch with God. “You’ve got to be crazy to be in God’s house on Sunday, and not trust God on Monday.” In order to have a fulfilling relationship with God, one must put their trust in God.
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.
“Shadow’d Beneath Thy Hand, Trust”
March 5, 1995
You are veterans. A little more, son. Say it! You are veterans and you’ve made it through a storm. You’ve made it through a storm. You ought to be commended. You’ve made it through a storm.
And you’ve made it through obstacles. Had to go a lot of way out of your way to get in God’s way. Your faces are precious. So, we’re talking to people who are initiated. You know the Lord, don’t you? That was pretty weak. You know the Lord, don’t you?
And you know the Lord will make a way somehow. You know that when you can trust nobody else, you can trust the Lord. Have you found that out? Have you found that out?
Your presence here today says that you have found that out. The Lord is to be trusted. And when things go wrong, God will somehow make them right. You can get in touch with God, too. Be something different if you had somebody sitting way over on the other side of the Hubble telescope, it would be different.
Be different if you had somebody who’d just got everything wound up and let it run for itself. But you and I have a God that’s closer than our heartbeat. You can get in touch with God at this very moment. You can call God’s name, and God will come to you.
You know from experience, He may not come when you want Him, but He’s right on time. You’ve got an answering service. You know how it is with our answering service when we don’t want to be bothered, we put the answering service on.
He’s sitting right there, just turn the volume up a little bit. And they call in, “Hi Mary, Hi Joe.” If you don’t want to see them, you act like you ain’t home.
But if you want to see them, you pick on up. God always picks up. You can trust God. And if you’re in a depression right now, when the atmosphere falls, people kind of get down. They get depressed. But even though the rain is falling on your head, showers of blessings. Showers. Showers. Showers of blessing.
William Penn is the founder of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. And the Indians just loved William Penn. And they said, look to here. All the ground that you can cover in one day is yours. William Penn wakes up early and he walks from early morning to late night. And then he claims the ground.
The Indians are amazed, they were just kidding. They didn’t expect him to take them seriously. But they gave him the land. And today it’s a large part of Philadelphia. And he went on to say that “If I can trust people, I know I can trust God.” I know I can trust God.
If you can trust your doctor, I know you can trust Dr. Jesus. If you can trust your attorney, I know you can trust Jesus. If you can trust your banker, your friend, I know, I know you can trust the Lord. So, we’re going to conclude our series on Lift Every Voice and Sing with the subject “Shadowed Beneath Thy Hand, Trust.” Shadowed. Shadowed beneath Thy hand, trust.
Please turn to Psalm 91 in your Bible. Psalm 91. The radio audience join us. Here in the pews it’s page 481. Psalm 91. We’re going to talk about two things as we talk about Shadowed Beneath Thy Hand. We’re going to talk about contact with God. Everybody, say that. Contact with and contract with God. Say that.
Contact with God. In the Air Force when they put us in flying training, be started off in a T6. It’s a propeller driven job. Oh, how ancient we were, with all this high-speed, jet-propelled stuff now! And the pilot would get in the cockpit, and a crew chief would get out by the propeller.
And the pilot would turn on the ignition key and cry “Contact!” That means I’m hot. That means I’m ready to go. That means watch out, out there because things are going to start moving. Contact!
Then the crew chief on the ground would just spin the propeller a time or two and it would start turning. And it would generate horsepower. Everything starts with contact. God says when you call “Contact” with me, that means you’re ready to go. Contact. I’m wired up, Lord! Contact. I’ve got the switch in my hand. Contact. I’ve got horsepower at my back. But everything starts with what? Contact.
We live within the shadow of the Almighty. Keep that word: Almighty! Sheltered by the God who is above all Gods. Keep that Most High. This, I declare, that God alone is my refuge, my place of safety. God is my God. And I am trusting God. For God rescues me from every trap and protects me from the fatal plague.
When you make contact with God, you discover two things in your life: shelter and shadow. Shelter is what everybody has. We live within the shadow of the almighty God. You’ve got to have some form of shelter going. They picture God as a mighty rock in a weary land.
Now, a rock, it has characteristics of strength and it has characteristics of height that when they speak of a kind of a shelter, they call God El Shaddai. Now you know two words of Hebrew. Everybody, say, El Shaddai. It means I have some type of fortress, protection in a rock.
And then a rock has height. But there is this rock that is Most High. It’s higher than Mount Everest. It’s higher than the Himalayas. It’s the Most High. And there’s another word that the Hebrews call Elohim. Everybody, come on and say, Elohim.
Now, here is what happens when you find yourself under siege. When you find yourself distressed. When you find yourself stressed out. When you find yourself betrayed. When you find yourself without the means to help yourself. When you find yourself in the intensive care unit. When you find yourself the victim of hate. There is El Shaddai. Elohim. El Shaddai. Elohim. Lead me to that rock that is higher than high.
Thou has been a shelter for me. That’s what they remember. Somebody ask you where you live, don’t give them your address. Tell them you live in El Shaddai Elohim. When somebody ask you where do you pay rent, tell him in El Shaddai Elohim. The rent you pay for living in the house of God is praise.
There ain’t nothing you can give God right now except let your light so shine before God that people will see your good works. Rent that we pay is praise. El Shaddai Elohim. It’s the God that we learn when we live in that rock.
Then, we have said that, not only do we get sort of a shelter, but we also get a shadow. Look at verse four. You’re doing real well. Look at verse four. He will shield you with his wings. God will shield me with God’s wings. They will shelter me. God’s faithful promises are our armor.
Now you don’t need to be afraid of the dark anymore. Not feel the dangers of the day. Not dread the plagues of darkness nor disasters in the morning. God is a shadow. The shadow of God’s might. All you can say in the rain is God has smiled on me. All you can say when death draws near is the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. God has smiled on me.
When you’re getting ready to go to the doctor next week, and you’re a little bit afraid, and you gotta take a treadmill test, all you got to do is say, “The Lord has smiled on me.”
When the landlord comes and you don’t have quite enough to make it, didn’t the Lord help you make it last year? Didn’t the Lord make it in Mississippi and Missouri? The Lord has smiled on me. I live beneath the shadow, the shadow of God’s wings.
Some of you are a little too young to remember the old radio show. Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The shadow knows! But we be running from everyone to hear the shadow knows. Well that’s the way it is from God. The shadow knows.
He knows—yes, He knows just how much we can bear. Your neighbor may not know, your husband or wife, your children may not know, but when you live beneath the shadow, the shadow knows. And there isn’t a person here who doesn’t look for a champion.
Now here’s what they’re talking about. It’s the mother hen. It’s the mother hen, and when there’s a danger, the eagle is circling high overhead, looking at the little chicks. Looking at you and me. When the hawk is flying overhead, looking at the little chicks, trying to afflict us, and the buzzard is somewhere off, I’m going to wait ’til they kill and then I’m going to eat.
And then everything is waiting on you, the mother hen says, “Come here children!” and she stretches out her wings. Get under my wings. We need to live beneath the shadow of El Shaddai. We live beneath the shadow of Elohim. And when the eagle looks down and says, “Whoops, I better leave them alone! That’s a bad mother hen down there!”
Ah, and the hawk looks down, and the buzzard says, “I better go somewhere else.” God says, “I got your back. I got your front. I got your side.” He’s all over me. And I know it is the Lord. Oh, He will not suffer your foot to be moved.
But God can’t make you believe it. God cannot make you believe it. Just like God can’t make you praise. God can fill your wallet. God can fill your heart. God can fill your refrigerator, God can fill your tank, but God can’t make you say, “Praise God!”
I don’t see how anybody goes through a whole week without saying “Praise God!” I don’t see how anybody goes a whole week without putting their hands around the mother hen and saying “Praise God!”
I don’t see how anybody can watch the eagle flying away, watch the hawk flying away, watch the buzzard flying away, without saying, “Some glad morning when this life is o’er I’ll fly away.” When I’m going to fly away to be with God just rose to tell you.
Rose to tell you what the good Lord’s done for me. Contact. Contact with God, it starts in the morning. How do you roll out of bed without getting on your knees by the side of your bed and saying, “Thank you, Lord, for one more day.”
How do you sit down to your poached eggs or your scrambled and grits and all your margarine and your toast and your orange juice without saying, “Thank you, Lord, for what I’m about to receive”? How do you walk out of the hospital without saying, “I’m lucky.” You ain’t lucky! I’m blessed. God has brought me a mighty long way. Thank you, Lord!
Talking about being in touch with God, being in touch with God. It’s like that man who had his first airplane ride. They took him up and it was just a short ride. He was an elderly man, and his son was a pilot, and he took him up in a light plane. And when they got back down, “Dad, how did you like it?” “Well, son, it was nice. But to tell you the truth, I never put my whole weight down.”
That’s some of us. We never really fully trust God. Take somebody talking about suicide. Are you crazy? I didn’t ask you are you hurt, I know you’re hurt. I didn’t ask you if you were depressed, I know you’re depressed. I didn’t ask you if you at wit’s end. I know you’re at wits end. I asked you are you crazy?
Because you got to be crazy to be in God’s house on Sunday and not trust God on Monday. I’m about to lose my home, pastor. Daughter, son, how did you get your home? The Lord gave! The Lord can give you something else.
That’s like stepping on the scales but don’t put your whole weight down. You can’t fool the scales. You know you eating too much. You might as well admit it. Put your whole weight down.
John Paton was a missionary in the New Hebrides Islands out in the Pacific. John Paton wanted to translate the New Testament into the language of the indigenous people. Oh, what a joy! But they had no word for trust. You and I can think of several synonyms for trust. They had no word for trust.
And John agonizes over that because he’s at that portion about the jail in Philippi, the Philippian jailer who comes running to the Apostle and asks, “What must I do to be saved?” And he can’t write trust. They don’t have any word for that.
So, he answers, “Put your whole weight on the Lord.” Put your whole weight on the Lord. We get our word “faith,” it’s from the language of a mother cradling a child, and the child just lays back in the mother’s arm, and they call that faith. They call it trust. The child puts its whole trust in the Lord.
And that’s what you and I mean when we sing, “I’m going to trust in the Lord.” I’m going to trust in the Lord. Who are you going to trust in family? In the Lord. In the Lord. Partially or totally? Everybody, say, “Put your whole weight down.”
Get in contact with God. Secondly, contract. Contract with God. Newt Gingrich and the right-wingers have a contract with America, which is more a contract on America. Especially Black America. Oh, I thank God for our non-Black members and friends in this congregation. You are so beautiful.
Every time I see your face, I want to shout. Because you have so many options. You don’t have to care. You can take a privileged position that is given by being the majority, but you come among the minority. You say you are my brothers, you are my sisters. I care about you.
It’s easy to put out a contract on somebody when you’re in a power position. But listen what we’re talking about, contract with God. Verse seven. We’re in Psalm 91, verse seven. You are to be untouched. Though a thousand fall at my side, though ten thousand are dying around me, the evil will not touch me. I will see how the wicked are punished, but I will not share it. For Jehovah, El Shaddai, Elohim is my refuge, my rock, I choose. I choose the God above all gods to shelter me. How then can evil overtake me, or any plague come near. For God orders God’s angels to protect me.
Wherever I go, they will steady me with their hands to keep me from stumbling against the rocks in the trail. I can safely meet a lion or step on poisonous snake. Yes, even trample them beneath my feet. A thousand may fall at my side. I am untouched.
You know in this Hollywood era and area in which we live, you tell somebody that you are untouchable, you tell somebody that you are untouched with all these thugs in the streets just shooting people. With all these 13-year-olds shooting 14-year-olds and a 114-year-old.
With all these mothers drowning and burning up their babies, with all of the inequities that can go with us, and if we ain’t going crazy, that means we’ve already gone. I don’t know what’s happening to us. I don’t know.
And if you tell somebody, “I am untouchable,” they’ll probably say, “Yeah, you touched!” And you really are. You have to be a little bit crazy to believe in God these days. We sit up here, and the choir sits up here and looks at your faces, you don’t know how beautiful you are.
But I want to tell you something: You’re a little bit crazy. You should have stayed in bed. And all you with that romantic inclination, when it rains, that’s a nice time to be intimate.
And the college tournament basketball is on. And, oh, there’s so many! Oh, you’ve got to be crazy to come out in the rain. You’ve got to be crazy to drive a mile or a half mile off of your normal path to get to the house of the Lord.
You’ve got to be a little bit touched. And that’s what we are saying. God touches you.
Holy, holy, holy, holy! Somebody touched me, and it must have been the hand of the Lord. He touched me this morning with the hand of compassion. He touched me. Oh, He touched. Oh, the joy! The joy that filled my soul. Something happened, and now I know, He touched me. Touched me.
I’m God’s maniac. Folks dying all around you. I know it, I see it. But it won’t come near me. Contract with God. Untouched. Because, in touch. Everybody, say, “In touch.” Now we’re coming home with verse 14 and thereabouts.
For the Lord says, “Because you love me.” I mean, listen to God wooing you and me. “Because you love me, I will rescue you. I will make you great because you trust in my name. When you call on me, I will answer. I will be with you in trouble. Rescue you. Honor you. I will satisfy you with a full life. Give you my salvation because you love me. I will rescue you.”
Talking about a love contract! You love somebody, you get up at 2 o’clock in the morning. You’ll go through the rain. And when you don’t have but one quarter left, you’ll go to a payphone and you’ll wake them up. You’ll spend your last quarter. I just called to say, “I love you. And I mean it from the bottom of my heart.”
Love will make you embrace the love. Love will make you take care of the love. God loves you. God loves you. God will rescue you. All that you need, God will supply. God will take care of you. Just get in touch with God.
They call him Old Pete. He used to drink Sneaky Pete. You know what Sneaky Pete is? It’s cheap booze. And they call him Old Pete. “I met Jesus,” says Old Pete. “My old friends still call me Old Pete. But the truth of the matter is now I’m New Pete since I met Jesus. And some of y’all, you know what I used to be. You know what I used to be, because you used to be out there with me, and I used to be out there with you.”
“I don’t deserve nothing. If God came to me right now and said, ‘Oh, Pete, you got to go to Hell because that’s what you deserve. I’m a take you to the very gate of Hell.’ I’d have to say, ‘Yes Lord, yes Sir. Yes Lord. You’re right. That’s what I deserve.’
‘But Lord, if you send me to Hell. Then you got to send your son Jesus with me. Because since I met Jesus, I don’t let nothing separate me from Jesus. I let nothing separate from His love. I may have trials. I may have woes. My friends may come. My friends may go. I’ll let nothing separate me from His love.’”