Preaching to a young audience, Rev. Murray talks about the boomerang effect in terms of actions having consequences that come back to us: “What goes around comes around.” He also talks about the balance of good times and bad times, saying that bad times seem long and impossible, but we should always trust God through bad times, and have faith that good times will return.
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.
“Boomerangs Come Home Again”
May 30, 2000
So, help me God! So, help me God to see that collusion brings collision. The Psalm that says everybody here has an enemy. Some may say, “I don’t have a single enemy in the world.” No, you don’t have a single enemy, you got a whole lotta enemies! Some people don’t like you just because you’re breathing! What do you do when your enemies attack you? That’s the question. Who defends you against your enemies? Everybody say, “The Lord is my defendant!” He will not suffer your foot to be moved. Behold, he who tries to remove you will he himself be removed! And moved.
In Ontario, Canada a man by the name of John Bassick. John Bassick goes into this entertainment place. Children, he asked the waitress, pay attention. Hey! Pay attention. Sit up girl, hush! Thank you, thank you. Say amen, children! Turn around son, turn around. You can look at her after worship. Alright. Mamas, that’s what y’all up there for, alright!
John Bassick goes into this eating place and he asks the waitress, “Will you dance with me?” She says, “No, thank you.” He takes out his gun and he shoots her. Five times. She falls to the floor. And then, as he’s trying to escape, he stumbles over her body, falls down, breaks his neck and dies. She recovers, makes a full recovery. Do you see God? Then look a little closer. Psalms 94. Psalms 94. Here in the church it’s page 42 and the radio audience pick up Psalms 94 and let’s begin looking at verse 19, 19.
Lord, when doubts fill my mind, when my heart is in turmoil, quiet me and give me renewed hope and cheer. Will you permit a corrupt government to rule under your protection? A government permitting wrong to defeat right? Do you approve of those who condemn the innocent to death? No! The Lord my God is my fortress, the mighty rock where I can hide. Listen to this, God has made the sins of evil people to boomerang upon them. God will destroy them by them their own plans, Jehovah our God will cut them off. God has made the sins of evil people to boomerang upon them. Our subject: Boomerangs come home again.
Hey, boomerangs! Boomerangs come home again, we gonna look at three things. Three things. Number one: sticks and stones may break my bones, sticks and stones. A boomerang is a throwing stick, curved, designed so that it returns to the one throwing it out. People who always hurting people think they are throwing a stick at you. They need to be aware it’s more than a stick; it’s a boomerang. And what goes around, comes around.
Remember Malcolm X saying, “Chickens come home to roost?” Some of us need to remember that. We think the chicken can’t find its way home at sunset. If you hurt that chicken, that chicken is coming back to you. If you do good, it’s coming home to you. If you do evil, it’s coming home to you. What goes around, comes around. Chickens come home to roost. Sticks and stones may break my bone. The Psalm that says, “Israel is in trouble. Israel feels all alone against its enemies.” You know what they’re talking about. Sometimes you feel like a motherless child, as the old spiritual says, “I couldn’t hear nobody pray. I looked for my friends and I couldn’t find my friends anywhere. And my enemies were on my right hand and on my left hand. I couldn’t hear nobody pray. Way down yonder by myself, I couldn’t hear nobody prayin’. I couldn’t hear nobody prayin’.”
They’re in a learning mode. Somebody here is in a learning mode. ‘Cause you have been hurt. You have been rebuked. You have been scorned, and you look up at God and you say, “God, have you got me on hold? God, are you mad sat me? God, I do my best, and these people are hurting me unto death. Oh Lord, they’re in a learning mode. Somebody’s going to the school of hard knocks right now. Things don’t always work good for you just because you do good. Sometimes you do good, and that’s when the devil gets busy.
Going to the school of hard knocks, you have been as nice as you can be to that family and here they come jumping on you. You’ve given everything in that relationship and here they come jumping on you. You work harder on that job than anybody else and here they come jumping on you. You’re in a learning mode. Going to the school of hard knocks. It’s alright, go ahead. Fuss at God when you’re in third grade. You don’t know much. Fuss at God while you’re in fifth grade, Lord why are you letting this happen to me? Fuss at God while you’re in eighth grade, but by the time you finish school, you’ll know that things are not always what they seem.
Be not deceived, God is not mocked for whatever person sows against you, if you in the right. A whole lot of us want God to defend us when we in the wrong. When you in the wrong, ain’t but one thing to say. Everybody, say, “I’m wrong!” It’s hard to say, see that I’m wrong. You good and wrong! Everybody, say, “I’m wrong!” And don’t make an excuse for yourself, don’t say, “I’m wrong, but…” Ain’t no but; when you wrong, you wrong. Practice it! Tell your neighbor on your right, “I’m sorry.” I’m sorry. Neighbor, what do you do? Turn back and say, “It’s alright.” It’s alright, it’s alright. Get over it. Get over it. God is not mocked. Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord. You don’t want God to shoot your enemy; you just want God to him out your face. And what God does to ’em, that’s between them and God.
You remember this Greek story, the small Greek town. They erect a statue, a monument, to one of the men of the town who has done greatly in the Greek games. They erect a statue to him. And his friend, friend, is jealous of him. We gonna rehearse the mantra again about jealousy: God never gave anybody anything he wanted me to have. Say, “Yeah!” Say, “I ain’t jealous of nobody, I got some stuff of my own.” He’s so jealous, he goes out after dark every night. He pushes on that statue. Tryin’ to remove it from its pedestal. He pushes on that statue. One night, he achieves success! It falls off of the pedestal. It falls on him. It falls on him. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but God’s word will always heal me.
That’s the second thing. Tell your neighbor on the left, “God’s word will always heal me.” But what is God’s word? What is God’s word? What is, God’s word is this: When your friends fail you, and there ain’t nobody here that hadn’t been failed by a friend, when your friend. See your enemies can’t fail you ’cause you don’t expect nothing of them. Your enemies can’t hurt you ’cause you on guard against them. It’s that person who walks with you, and turns the corner with you, and eats your bread, and wears your clothes, and spends your money, and goes out and talks about you behind your back. It’s that grinning friend. Grinning like a Cheshire cat and then cutting you down as soon as you get outta sight.
Children, pay attention, you’re gonna need this. Don’t you take everybody to be your friend. I tell you about something, when your friends fail, God never fails! God never fails. He abides with me, He gives me victory, God never fails. Remember the Psalm that sing, “I been a young man, now I’m an old man, in all my years, never have I seen the righteous forsaken. Nor his seed go begging for bread.”
God never fails, so don’t you fail God. Don’t fail yourself. Be the best that you can be.
How do you fail God? Well, you fail God by letting God feed you Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and then when the bread is scarce on Saturday you start tripping. How do you fail God? You let your children get through junior high, and then in 10th grade, the boy does something stupid and the police knock on your door at midnight and you ask God, “Why are you doing this to me?” How do you fail God when everything is right? Your health is good, your money is good, you house rent is good, you’re getting ready to buy a home, and then things go bad, and you drop outta church ’cause you mad with God. That’s how you fail God.
How do you fail God when you’ve had 12 years in a marriage, a good marriage, then you have 12 bad months, and you gonna act like God is picking on you? Don’t you know that the negative go with the positive in life? Don’t you know that you can’t have good without bad? You gonna have some good days and you gonna have some bad days, but through it all I’ve learned to trust in Jesus. I’ve learned to trust in God. God never fails.
Word of God will heal me. God never fails, don’t you fail God. And don’t you fail yourself. Psalmist, how do you fail yourself? Listen to his right answer: by flying into a rage. Any of y’all ever flew off the handle? Lady, wake him up. Anybody here ever flew off the handle? What’re you mad about? What’re you so mad about you go to 20,000 feet flying into a rage? Some people fly first class. Now you did something that I can’t meaningfully relate to.
Speaker 2: Alright now!
I have no kindred feelings with you at this particular moment. Some fly first class, some fly coach. Bring it on! You give me some change, I’ma give you pay back. You hitchhike your way over here, I’ll pay your way back. Bring it on!
But whether you fly first class or coach, whenever you fly into a rage, you always make a bad landing. Nothin’ good comes out of it. A little therapy. But, you could have gone out in the alley and hollered. You coulda gotten in your car and closed the windows and hollered. You coulda gone into the bathroom and hollered. And you may have done a little good there, but this way, and when you land, you don’t kill yourself. You kill your religion.
You heard people say, “I almost lost my religion”? The religion you can lose is the religion you’ve never found. You can’t lose what you ain’t found, and you can’t find what you ain’t lost. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but the word of God will always heal me. And this is the word of God. Listen to what the Psalmist is saying, “I screamed, I’m slipping Lord, and He was kind and saved me.” When you’re slipping into darkness, God’ll reach out to you with God’s right hand. The right hand of God will save you when you find yourself slipping into darkness, when you find yourself slipping into sin, when you find yourself slipping into a rage, the right hand of God will save you. When you look on your right hand and you got no friends, you look on your left hand, you got no friends, you look on your right hand, you got enemies, you look on your left hand, you got enemies–look up, children! Look and live! Look to Jesus Christ.
Sticks and stones will break my bones, the word of God always heals me. Third, third, third. What goes around, what? Comes around. Everybody, say out loud, “Actions have consequences.” I dunno why we don’t learn that lesson. If you don’t study, what you gonna do on that exam? And when you fail, who you gonna blame? Don’t be looking for people to blame. You get in that relationship with that clown, your momma told ya that joker wasn’t no good and he hurts you, who you gonna blame? You gonna go after miss momma, miss hot mamma is so hot that she gotta have five people to cool her off, and then you get your heart broken. Who you gonna blame?
Actions have consequences. You eat them calories and then you gonna resent the movie star. Uh huh, you sitting up there and I done stepped on your fat. Actions have consequences. Do the crime, what? Do the crime, do the time. Now the judgment of God has shown that God makes you serve the time. The judgment of God has shown when your enemies throw at you, God lets you stand there and suffer the consequences of your very own actions. I knew I was developing a drinking habit, and everybody told me you better do something ’bout it while you can do something about it, but I say, “I can handle it, I’m just a weekend drinker. I can handle it.” And then I ended up with a problem I couldn’t handle. Now judgment says God lets me suffer the consequences of my own actions. But grace, God stands between me and the consequences. Here’s the act over here, here the consequences over here, and somehow God places Jesus in the middle to protect me from my own foolishness.
What goes around, doesn’t come around. God stops it from coming home to roost. And if I don’t like Jesus, if I don’t acknowledge Him, how can He protect me? If I say, “Jesus, get out of my way,” then the stones got to hit me. Reciprocity has to hit me. The consequences of my action have to hit me. You raised them spoiled little children, they gonna end up in the gangs and streets and drugs, you got nobody to blame but yourself. But God bleeds with you. Give your children a work ethic! Teach your children to come to church! Teach your children to watch their mouth! Teach your children not to steal! Teach your children to do their homework!
God, God saves us from the boomerang effect. Well I’m coming home now, just wanna tell you. You’ve heard about the touch of Midas? Midas. Bacchus says, “Midas, ask for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” Midas says, “Hey, grant that everything I touch will turn to gold.” Bacchus says, “Oh, my goodness, uh oh. Alright, my word is out. You now have the touch of gold. Everything you touch will turn to gold.”
Midas goes out and he touches a twig of a tree. It turns to gold. He touches a rock and it wakes up, turns to gold. Turns to gold. Touches an apple and it turns to gold. He goes home shouting, “I’ve got it made now!” He tells his servants, “Prepare a lavish feast!” Then at the feast, he reaches for bread. It turns to gold. He takes a cup of wine and drinks it. And it turns to gold on its way down. He says, “Oh my God! I’m gonna starve to death. I’m gonna starve!” He runs back to Bacchus. Bacchus, take away this gift you’ve given. Put it back like it was before. Bacchus tells him, “Go down to the river. Follow the river till you come to its fountain. There, plunge in your head and your body and you will come out whole. You will come out cleansed of your foolishness.”
Don’t you see? It’s the same with you and me. I’m going down to the river of Jordan. I’m gonna be baptized by John the Baptist. I’m gonna wash my sins away. What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. I wanna be a boomerang for Jesus. I’m coming back to my senses. Take me back! Take me back, Dear Lord, to the place where I first believed you! Take me back! Take me back, Dear Lord. Take me back! Boomerangs come around in the name of Jesus.
C’mon and stand on your feet. Lift up both of your hands. Thank you, Lord, thank you, that we can, like your boomerangs, come back to our senses. Even as we’ve come to our feet, help us come to our senses. To see that when the darkness appears, God doesn’t disappear. We don’t need to disappear. God, the suicide rate is mounting. Help us come back to our senses. Lord the homicide rate, help us come back to our senses. Anything we can do to hurt ourselves, we are doing it. Lord, help us come back to our senses. Lower your hands children, but don’t lower your hopes. Don’t lower your expectations. God has sent you to us this morning. If you have no church home, come down one of the aisles and meet us here at the cross. God has sent you to help us help others of God’s children. If you need a prayer, you’re trying to get a prayer through for someone who’s in crisis, probably not you, come down the aisle. Meet the prayer warriors here as we sing.
For prayers come to your right, to join come to your left. As we sing, won’t you come. Come on children. Thank you.