In this sermon, Rev. Murray speaks to his congregation about the coldness that can exist in the world: loneliness, rejection, etc. However, he assures us that nothing is wrong with being alone, and it is okay if some people don’t like you, as long as you are dedicated to God. “The soul warmer (God) will heat you up when the world is cold to you,” he says.
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.
“Old Jordan River is Chilly and Cold”
May 16, 1999
Glory be to God! Catch the fire. Everybody, say, “Catch the fire!”
When you are coldly afraid. Everybody, say, “When you are coldly afraid.” With your kind cooperation, we would like to say thank you to some care packages. Early this morning before the eight o’clock service, the devil got in the mix, and the sound system went out.
And our sound crew has been working with might and mane up to this very moment. They never gave up, they gave out. Thank you! Sound crew, thank you, thank you, thank you.
While ago, the shadow stood here, the young man who told us of his experience, the shadow knows. The shadow said, “Never give up.” Never give up. We want to talk in our remaining time, only difference between the body chillers—everybody, say, “body chillers”–and the soul warmers. Sometimes you find yourself in cold water, around cold people, with cold circumstances.
Some of you here never in your life heard your father say, “I love you,” if he was there. Never heard mama say, “I love you,” or put arms around you. Just cold water. When I say wade in the water, God’s gonna trouble the water. Sometimes you don’t find yourself in cold water, but you find yourself in hot water. Wade! Wade in the waters. God’s gonna trouble the water. ‘Cause Jesus tells us there is another river. There is a river whose streams make live the hearts of men and women. Don’t worry about those who can kill the body.
Matthew 10:28, “Fear not those who can kill the body, but fear those who can kill the body and the soul.” So, our subject is: “Old Jordan River is Chilly and Cold.”
You may know the lyrics, it comes from another generation, old Jordan River is chilly and cold. It chills the body, but not the soul. Jesus, Jesus, why doesn’t it chill the soul? Because the soul belongs to God. Don’t forget that. The soul belongs to God, and the soul-warmer will meet you down by the River of Jordan. Whatever you’re going through right now, the soul-saver, the soul-warmer, will heat you up when the world is cold to you. Wade in the waters, children! Don’t be afraid of the troubled waters. Don’t be afraid of what you’re gonna meet this week. Don’t be afraid to do without, because as long as you’re with God, you are never without. God will make a way somehow. God will part the sea. God will calm the storm. Wade in the waters, children! Soul-saver. The soul-warmer will meet you at the waters.
Of course, you’re gonna be met there by the body-chillers too. The body-chillers are people who just keep raining on your parade. The body-chillers are people who just turn down the thermostat. You were up a while ago shouting in praise to God and you could look down the row at one of the body-chillers, and their whole expression says, “What in the hell are you shouting about?” And all you can say is, “I sing because I’m happy! I sing because I’m free! [God] is on the spiral, and I know He watches me!” Never give up!You gotta go through Jordan in order to get to the Promised Land. Oh, I know Jesus would say, “I wish I could carry you across Jordan. I wish you didn’t have to get wet. I wish everything were alright for you.” But if everything is all wrong, God is still all right. Wade in the waters, children! Old Jordan River is chilly and cold. It chills the body, but not the soul. Don’t be afraid of what’s out there waiting for you. You gotta go through some changes. You gotta go through some hard times. You gotta go through some dark nights. You gotta go through some bad relationships. You gotta go through being talked about, rebuked and scorned. You gotta go through being lied on. You gotta go through being put out at the midnight hour. I agree with the Psalmist: We may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Wade in the waters, children!
Matthew 10, read that chapter when you get home or when you get down. Three times, Jesus says to you and me, “Fear not.” Verse 26: “Fear not.” Verse 28: “Fear not those who can only kill the body. God can kill the body and the soul.” Verse 31: “Fear not. You are more valuable to God than the sparrow that falls from the skies.” We are a trembling generation. We are a frightened generation. Some of us are frightened of being alone, and nothing is wrong with being alone. You oughta hear of that man who talks to himself all the time, and somebody asked him, “Why do you talk to yourself all the time?” And he responded, “Because I like to talk to somebody intelligent.”
The greatest fear we all have is the fear of rejection. You’re gonna be rejected sometimes. There is trouble all over this world. Why should you expect everybody to like you when everybody doesn’t even like God? Everybody doesn’t even like Jesus? Some people will stand out and shake their fists at God. God understands, then you and I can understand. Why should, just because you love somebody, that person have to love you to where you love them? You aren’t loving them for them to love you back. You’re loving them just because you love them. I love you, my sister. I love you, my brother. It doesn’t matter whether you love me or not. I love you. I’m not afraid of rejection as long as God takes me.
I want you to look at three brief ways, three brief ways, to keep the fear out, to keep the body-killers from killing you, to keep the soul-squashers from squashing you. Three simple ways are given to us in Matthew 10, as Jesus talks to us, ‘cause you gotta cross that Jordan River. You gotta go through it, and you need some water wings. You need a fire burning for you so that you can warm up when you come out of the cold. The first thing: Everybody, say, “Isolate.”
Find a quiet spot, where the Holy Spirit, where Jesus, can whisper to you. It won’t be with people, ‘cause some people will say, “Oh, they think they so holy.” It won’t be around a lot of people, because some people don’t believe in prayer. It’s amazing how some us don’t believe in prayer until the bullet is three inches away from us, or here comes death, and then we go, “Our Father, who art in Heaven… ” You must think the Angel of Death is crazy! You done told me to go jump in a lake all your life, now here you come, it’s time for you to cross Jordan, you gonna tell me carry me over Jordan River. You better get yourself together.Isolate. Find a quiet place, close the door, cut off the television. Get you some soft music on the radio, sit back and let the Lord love you. Prayer. Isolate. We get all caught up in this hip culture. We get all caught up in this downbeat and deadbeat language. We forget the simplest thing in the world is to have a little talk with Jesus. We don’t want anybody to call us a nerd. We don’t want anybody to call us square. I got news for you: If you gonna be round, you better let God round off your corners, or else you ain’t never gonna be round. You ain’t never gonna be hip until you let God tell you what’s how.
Isolate. One of the greatest scientists of all times, Issac Newton. Issac Newton says I can take my telescope and I can look out into the universe, millions and millions of miles away. With my telescope I can see infinity, but then I set my telescope aside. I go into my room and close the door. I get down on my knees and have a talk with the Lord, and I can see further than my telescope could ever see. I can see the Lord clearer than I could ever see with my telescope. Have a little talk with Jesus. Pray on, children! Pray on into the dying lamp. Isolate. Brothers, raise your hands, brothers. All the males. I want you promise something while you got your hand in the air. Every morning you get out of bed, whether it’s 5:00, 6 or 7:00, go down on your knees for 30 seconds, one minute, a minute and a half. Whatever! Go down, have a little talk with Jesus. If you’ll do it, say “Yes!”
Thank you, brothers. Isolate.
Second, cogitate. Think. Meditate. Cogitate. Look here, God has put something in you, says Jesus. God has put something unusual in you. The world can’t kill that. The world may kill the body, but that soul, nothing can destroy it. Again and again, you remember the African proverb: “It’s not the name you called me, it’s the name I answer to.” God has given you something extra. That’s why nobody can hurt you, because you know who you are. I’m a child of the King, that makes me a prince! Sisters, that makes you a princess! God don’t make no junk.
I don’t care what’s happened to you yesterday, you and God can recover from it and go on a little bit. There’s something special in you. One bad relationship doesn’t mean two bad relationships. One bad day doesn’t mean two bad days. You are not junk. You are not junk. You’re not junk. Stir up the git that is in you. Just stir it up and God will be there to mix with you. Cogitate.
A storm off the Samoan islands we read about. And this boat was anchored off shore, and the storm was about to dash it against the rocks. In his time of crisis, the captain reached within, the same way you and I do when the storm of life is raging. Instead of saying, “Oh woe, oh woe, this is the end of me!” It ain’t never the end of you! Don’t ever give up. Listen to God whispering to him, “Pull up the anchor.” Pull up the anchor. “Head out to sea in the midst of the storm. Go out!” And when the storm had passed over, the boat was still standing, still floating. God has put something in you that the storm of life can’t quench. You are not what is in your pocketbook or in your bank account; you are what’s in your heart. God has put something in your heart. God has put something in your soul. Stir it up!
Third: We’ve said isolate. We’ve said cogitate. Now we say, “Concentrate.” Focus, focus. Jesus says, “Even if you fall, you will rise again.” Focus on the rising and not on the falling. You got an option between a good thought and a bad thought, focus on the good part. If a sparrow falls… What’s a sparrow worth? A penny? Remember your Scripture. Half a penny. If a sparrow falls, and God is aware of it, then if a Black bird falls God will be aware of it too. If a ghetto pigeon falls, God will be aware of it too. If a buzzard falls, God will be aware of it too. If a turkey falls, God is aware of it too. If a chicken falls, God is aware of it too.
When you fall, you rise again. Our trouble, too often, is falling for the wrong things. Sisters, raise your hand. Long as my head is hot… Repeat after pastor. Say it again, “Long as my head is hot, I’m through crying over somebody who I want but doesn’t want me. I ain’t falling for no fool no more.”
And if you make your resolve, God will take care of you. See, when you’re scared, people feed it. You go in to apply for a job and you’re trembling, you can’t even say your name you’re so nervous. Why didn’t you have your prayer outside of the door? When did you isolate? Why didn’t you meditate? Cogitate? Why didn’t you think about it, then why didn’t you concentrate my name, and so and so? “I believe I can help this company, and here’s what I offer. Here is my resume, but if you find that I’m not worthy, I’ll work for you free. You owe me nothing.” And you get the job, and you work hard on the job, and the job works on you, but you work on the job. God is there. Even if you fall, you do not fail because you cannot fail in God. The only time you fail is when you are scared to fall. Ain’t nothing wrong with falling. It’s getting up again!
Lemme tell you about Reverend [Henson], and then we’ll open the doors for those who will help us help God. Reverend Henson stands before his congregation. It’s his last time. He tells them, “I’m fatally sick. I won’t recover. I just want you to know I love the Lord. He heard my cry. He pitied every woe as long as I lived.” [Loved ones] hasten to his side. Then, as the people wept, he walked out of the aisle and got in his car, went home, he stays five miles outside of the city in a country home. He looked at the mountain. It’s night, and he looks at the stars, looks at the trees, he looks at the running brook. Then he says, “Mountain, I may not see you many times again, but I want you to know that I shall still be standing when you have fallen. Trees, I want you to know I may not see you many times again, but I shall still be left standing when you are uprooted from the earth. Stars, I shall still be left standing when you have fallen out of your sockets. Birds, I shall still be standing when your songs shall have ended.” I thank you, Lord, that I can look up.
Old Jordan River is chilly and cold, it chills my body, but not my soul. My soul is anchored in Jesus, and the world can’t do me no harm, in the name of Jesus.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Please wait for the meditation. Please stand to your feet. Please stand to your feet. Please stand to your feet.