In this sermon, Cecil Murray talks about “professional sufferers” — people who complain all the time and who are dying to prove they are suffering more than others. He encourages people to appreciate what they have and to compromise with people who aren’t like them.
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.
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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.
“Free at Last!”
November 11, 1995
Raise your hand and say, “Jesus!”
All the brothers, maybe you haven’t done it this week, brothers. Raise your right hand and say, “Jesus!” Once more, Jesus! All the sisters, maybe you haven’t done it this week. Raise your hand, sisters! Jesus!
Now let everything that hath breath, praise the lord!
Congregation: Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!
And just look at the pain running out! Look at the pain, pain can’t hang around Jesus. Jesus is a pain-killer. Oh yes! I haven’t got time for the pain, I haven’t got room for the pain, I haven’t got the need for the pain! C’mon and say what’s your pain-killer? Jesus!
This month we’re gonna be talking on that theme, I haven’t got time for the pain. Some here have pain-killers in your pocketbooks, some have pain-killers in your pockets. I wanna tell you about another pain-killer!
Some of us are professional sufferers. You need to hear Micah say that, some of us are professional sufferers. We just love to suffer! We complain about being hungry, and there’s bread right there! We complain about being sick, and they won’t go to see Dr. Jesus! We just suffer all the time.
Micah says, you know why? ‘Cause you’re drinking the wrong stuff. You’re out there drinking the wrong stuff. Micah says, I used to be a sufferer! I used to be a professional sufferer. I used to wake up in the morning complaining, I used to complain when I was at a feast, I used to complain when I was at a wedding party, I used to complain when I was making good money, I used to complain when I was in good health–I was drinking the wrong stuff!
Now, I’m drinking at the fountain that never shall run dry! I’m drinking the wine from heaven! I’m drinking the love of God! I’m drinking the wisdom of God! I’m drinking this morning!
There is a fountain, there is a fountain filled with love, drawn from Immanuel’s vein. And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stain!
Everybody here has something that gives you pain, but you don’t have to live with your pain. Micah is telling us right here in Micah 4, beginning at verse 9: “But for now, you scream in terror. All are gone! Pain has gripped you like a woman in labor.”
Sisters, you know what Micah is talking about. When you had that first child, you thought you were going to die. All night long you writhed in agony. All night long like a woman in terrible pain. “O people of Zion, for you must leave this city and live in the fields; you will be sent far away into exile in Babylon.” But listen to this: “But there I will rescue you and free you from the grip of your enemies.”
That’s what God is promising you now. You may be in bondage, you may be a long way from home, your blood pressure may be elevated. You don’t know where tomorrow is coming from, the enemies are all around you, but remember the subject of our sermon, suggested by Micah: Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God almighty! Free at last.
We’ve got a couple of months to go before we go into 1996, and we’re not going into 1996 the same as we were in 1995. On Thanksgiving Day, we’re going to gather beneath this room and we’re going to celebrate the majesty of God! We’re gonna find what we have to be thankful for! We’re going to anoint with the oil of anointing!
God says, “I didn’t promise you a rose garden. But I did promise you I would bring you water to nourish the roses! I did promise you I would fix you up on every leaning side. I did promise you that I’d be a father for the fatherless and a mother for the motherless. I did promise you that when you’re down, I will lift you up. I will make your enemies your footstools. Free at last. Free at last!
Micah is talking about being free from war. You and I have this little war going on in us right now. In the last thirty-one-hundred years of history, we have had less than three-hundred years of peace. So, if you want to complain all of the time, you got something to complain about! But I wanna tell you that when you’re a constant griper, when you are a professional sufferer, you not only are not a Christian, you’re not even interesting company, because people get sick and tired of you complaining all the time!
The sun is shining. You got some food in your refrigerator. You got a refrigerator, and the refrigerator has a house! You came here by car this morning, or you at least have the money to catch the bus. God has smiled on you! And if God has smiled on you, you haven’t got time for the pain!
I thank you Lord for the awakening! I thank you Lord, for even though the war is raging, it is well with my soul! When peace like a river attendeth my way, everything is not alright this morning, but thank you Lord that you make it alright!
Remember the man, let me remind you, lived his life complaining. Always complaining. See people like that, how are you? It’s not a question, it’s a greeting. “How are you?” is not a question, nobody wants to hear about your kidney, nobody wants to hear about your blood pressure. How are you, your response is, “God is good, I am fine, thank you!”
Nobody wants to hear about your broken relationship; everybody’s got troubles in a relationship. As long as you got a relationship with God, good morning! How are you! It is well! It is well!
Nobody wants to hear about how broke you are; ain’t nobody got enough money! Turn to your neighbor on your right and ask them, “How much money do you have?” Now if they told you not enough, now you gotta give them some!
Remember the man who just lived his life complaining all the time. And then when he died, he calls to be put on his tombstone: “I told y’all I was sick.” Some of us are just dying to prove it. My personal problems, my personal problems, well I wanna tell you something Mr. Personal Problems, I wanna tell you something Ms. Personal Problems: you got a personal Savior! And even though Jerusalem is under siege, God said here in Micah 4: “Jerusalem is now a jungle, but I’m gonna turn Jerusalem the Jungle into Jerusalem the Just!”
We have a part of Los Angeles called the Jungle, but I’m gonna turn the Jungle into the Just! I’m going to turn this society upside-down! I know things are not right now, but I’m gonna make them right! And I’m going to use you to help me make them right. I’m sick of wars! I’m sick of fighting! I’m sick of fussing all the time! I’m sick of complaining all the time!
The Lord is going to bring us in a new day! My Lord is a mighty man of war! Free at last!
Free at last! Thank God Almighty!
Micah talks about disarmament; what a magnificent word! Everybody, say, “Disarmament.” The second syllable is -arms, lay down your arms. Lay down your arms, what are you fussing about all time? If you think you ugly, that’s because you don’t have a good mirror. God never made anything ugly. If you ugly, it’s because you made yourself ugly.
What are you fussing about? Because you don’t have enough money? Go out and get a second job, go out and get a third job. And if you can’t find a second job, or a third job, learn to live with the money you make off the first job!
Lay down your arms, and if everything is going wrong in your life, you don’t blame your neighbor for it. You need to hear your neighbor’s story. I’ve been ‘buked and I’ve been scorned. I been talked about, sure as you’re born. But I have a God, I worship that God on Sunday, I worship that God on Monday, I worship that God on my job, I worship that God on my knees. Lay down your arms!
We used to be a friendly people, we could greet each other as strangers: Hi! Now you don’t even get nothing but a dirty look. And most of us go around frowning all the time, it’s something about an African profile that’s utterly magnificent when they’re smiling. And there’s something about an African profile that looks like hell when they frown. Look like you sucking on lemon while someone’s urinating in your face, that’s what you look like!
Lay down your arms! Ain’t nobody scared of you! You ain’t God, nobody has to be judged by you, nobody is intimidated by you! Lay down your arms! And surrender to mine, says God. Lay down your arms, and surrender to mine. We’re talking about reduction, instead of destruction.
What’s wrong with us that we can’t love each other anymore? What’s wrong with us that we can’t hug each other anymore? What’s wrong with us that we go around crying about what we haven’t got, instead of thanking God for what we have got? What’s wrong with us that all of this hypertension hits us because too much stress hits us? What’s wrong with us that we think the world revolves around us and I have a little problem, what’s wrong with us that we can’t gather in a house of the Lord and jump ’til the Lord comes down? And sing ’til the Lord comes down! Pray ’til the Lord comes down! Preach ’til the Lord comes down! Thank you, Lord! Thank you, Lord!
Black folks and white folks, lay down your arms. Black folks and Black folks, lay down your arms. Baptists and Methodists, lay down your arms. Jews and Christians, lay down your arms. Christian and Christian, lay down your arms. First Church and First Church, lay down your arms. Lay down your arms and surrender to mine!
There should come a time where nations shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Micah has this dream, Micah 4; Isaiah has this dream; Jesus has this dream. You gonna take the tools of war and make them tools of farming, you’re gonna stop killing stuff and start growing stuff. Disarmament!
Arbitration, that’s the next thing he tells us about. Why can’t you and I sit down together and destroy our problem without destroying each other? Why is it that when we disagree, we have to become disagreeable? Why is it that we can’t stay on the problem and stay off of each other? Why is it that when something’s hurting you, you can’t tell me about it, and when something’s hurting me, I can’t tell you about it? Why is it that we can’t sit down at the family table and everybody that has something on your mind, say it out loud?
Why is it that for every couple that stands here and says “I do, I do,” in seven years, 50 percent of those couples are saying “I don’t, I don’t”? Why is it that we still got some jackass brothers who think they’re in charge of women, and you walk around here talking about, “I’m the head of the house”? You ain’t even the head of your own self! How is that?
How is it that we have some jackass women? Just because you married a jackass, you think all other Black men are jackasses? And you got a bad attitude, why is that? When you brought that clown home and your daddy tried to feed him a bale of hay, you didn’t get the hint that you were holding a jackass! You knew everything, you knew everything!
Arbitration! Everybody, say, “arbitration.” Not “arbitrary!” Nobody has to listen to your mouth! So, you submit, “I think this, partner,” “I think this,” “I think this,” “I think this.” And don’t go, “Now wait a minute, don’t you slip into your parent!” That’s why this is all evil now, because the parents didn’t have no sense.
When you enter arbitration, everybody at the table is grown, everybody at the table is presumed intelligent. Everybody at the table is a child of God. What we want with arbitration, we want to learn how to disagree without becoming disagreeable. Nations shall learn to study war, no more. Everybody’s saying, “I ain’t going to study war no more.” Everybody saying, “I ain’t going to study war no more.”
Security, third. Every man, every woman, shall sit on his vine and under his fig tree. Security and peace, don’t you and I see there’s enough to go around? Don’t you and I see that the only way we’re going to get it is not just to sit under the vine and the fig tree, but to grow the vine and to grow the fig tree?
If you want employed, why don’t you come on around the corner and talk to FAME Renaissance, let Mark and them find you a job. If you in trouble, why don’t you come around to the free legal. If you’re raising children by yourself, as a mother or father, why don’t you come to [the office] and let your children get involved in one of the 27 task forces. If you homeless, why don’t you come on and talk to the housing ministry? If you got a substance abuse problem, why do you reeling and rocking like a fool when all you have to do is turn yourself in, and we’ll guarantee with your help and God’s help, we’ll get you sober? Why are you not sitting under your vine and your fig tree? Why are you paying rent when you ought to own your own home?
Two weeks ago, we showed you the way, you can own your own home! And instead of you coming out to the meeting, you’re sleeping in a bed in a rented house!
Complaining, complaining, complaining. Everybody, say, “Poor me1” You feel better? Your momma died at 90 years of age, and the normal period of mourning is two weeks, two months later you’re still walking around, “Poor me!” How long did you expect your momma to live? And don’t you believe your momma’s in glory now? Then what are you complaining about? You had your momma twice as long as other people had their momma, and I got news for you! Not only your momma, but you got to go that way!
So, while you’re here, do something about it! Plant some vines, plant some fig trees! [Bringing] forth benefit, the lame shall return home. The lame, not in body–the lame in spirit. We are lame in spirit because we accentuate the negative instead of accentuating the positive!
We are lame in spirit because we were in Jerusalem and now we are in captivity in Babylon. And we ought to hear the Lord saying, “The same way I got you out of Egypt before, I’ll get you out of Babylon now!” We are lame in spirit because we have forgotten how to praise the Lord! Some of us come to worship and you almost have to beg them to move over so you can shout! Some of us come to worship and we come just to pose. Some of us don’t understand our feelings anymore!
Like a woman in labor, the only question is: Can you make it through the night? All my sisters who’ve had a baby, raise your hand! Can you make it through the night? You’re in your seventh month, you’re in your eighth month, you’re in your ninth month, can you make it through the night?
You can’t have a baby without a little suffering. You can’t have tomorrow without a little pain in today. And when that baby cries in the morning, all your pain is washed away!
Lord! I ain’t gon’ study war no more! I ain’t gon’ study war no more!
With your help, I ain’t gonna complain anymore!