In this sermon, Rev. Murray addresses the need for humility and the temptations of showing off. “Everybody has something, and your something is no better than the other person’s something!” He says that God loves everyone equally and gives everyone gifts, so there is no reason to try to compete and show off.
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.
“Confusion or Delusion”
November 15, 1998
Thank you, Jesus! Since six o’clock this morning, they’ve been keeping us happy. Let’s stand them up! Come on. Don’t let habits consume you. Let the power of God consume you! Good habits, but don’t let bad habits consume you. We got a bad habit of confusion.
Our lives are too confused. Our minds are too confused. And one of the things that’s confusing us is showing off. We just love to show off. I told Leonard, I said, “Leonard, would you go take CNN outside? And then we’ll feed them some people to interview because as long as that camera’s in here, we ain’t gonna have no church today.”
I couldn’t understand that my nooners, sitting back, holding their lips. You know how we hold our mouths when we think we cute. Said, Lord have mercy! Taking their glasses off. Can’t see from here to the wall without them. We’re out of control. We’re getting shallow, and I need you to pray with us now because these are words from Paul. If you hear the truth, say, “Praise the Lord!”
Too many of us spend too much time showing off. All the sisters stand up. All the females stand up now! Come on, come on, come on! Hear your father, your pastor. You are cute. Now sit down. It’s like women going to the restroom when they’re out eating or dining. They always go in two’s, showing off. And they do this little ol’ sexy walk, and as bad as they got to go to the restroom, if they don’t hurry up, both of them gonna be wet. Showing off!
Brothers, stand up! All the brothers, stand up. Stand up. Now you bad. Sit down. We’re out of control because we are out of our minds. Too busy with I, I, I, me, me, me, I, I, I, my, my, my, my, my…
Everybody, say, “I know who I am because I know who God is!”
We show off too much! We show off too much. We’re out of our minds because we’re out of control. It’s like being out of place. You’re in the wrong place in the wrong time with the wrong people doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons, and then expect it to turn out right! You’re down there at the Biltmore and the valet delivers your car. You’re heading to this car and you walking and done missed a month’s payment on it. Showing off!
Paul says you even do it when you come to the house of the Lord. That don’t happen here, does it? You ain’t showing off, now are you? No, no, no! You’re just being for real, aren’t you? You weren’t posing for CNN. You came to church to worship God, didn’t you? Yeah. God is not the author of what? First Corinthians 14:33: “God is not the author of confusion.” Everybody, say, “Simplify!” That’s Russo’s rule for life. Say it again: “Simplify!”
You and I need to simplify our lives, because right now, remember our subject: confusion from delusion. Simplify your life. We got too much junk in our lives. We got too much junk in our heads. We got too much junk! That’s what Paul is trying to tell us. Delusion, which means we are being deceived, and it’s worse when you deceive yourself than when somebody else deceives you. It’s worse when you deceive yourself! When you know who God is, then you know who you are.
If you are out of control, it is because you are out of God, because when you are in the God, then you are in the control. And when you are in the control, you are in control. But oh, Lord, if you think your stuff is better than anybody else’s stuff, you need somebody to tell you ain’t such a much. Tell your neighbor that now. “You ain’t such a much!” Tell ’em now!
God can’t bless some of us because we won’t let Him. I’m going to embarrass him like everything because he’s a beautiful human being and I want you to see an example of a person who has stardom, but who still serves the Lord. Stand up, Michael Warren. Stand up. Stand up. Stand up. Give him a hand. He counts it as nothing. He can’t go anywhere in America, “Well ain’t you…” and he just blushes like he did there. It’s not artificial. And some of us get two moments on KTLA, and then, well, what can I say?
Everybody has something, and your something is no better than the other person’s something. There is nobody under this roof that God hasn’t given a special talent. That God hasn’t given a special dream. There is nobody under this roof that God doesn’t love just as much as He loves your brother or your sister. God doesn’t have any elevations. God loves us all equally, no matter if you’ve been to college. Doesn’t matter whether you have or not. We want you to go to college, but we want you to remember you can go to college. You can go to school. But if you ain’t got Jesus, you’re just an educated fool, and that’s all!
Paul says some of you can sing. Some of you can teach. Some of you can preach. Some of you can prophesize. Some of you can speak in tongues. And we took that last one as an example just so we can talk to each other, so we’ll stop showing off so much.
Speaking in tongues, it’s a gift given from God. But if we don’t look out, it’ll make a big fool out of us. God gives us our gifts so that we can serve others. If I can sing a song and make you happy, all I can say is, praise be to God! If you pat me on my back, “Reverend you told the truth today!” All I can say is, praise be to God!
If you can tap dance or [break] dance or do hip-hop, praise be to God! If you’re gonna have a good meal today, praise be to God! If you own a business, praise be to God! If you’ve got a brand-new car, turn to the neighbor on your left and say, if you so smart, how come your tire’s flat? They used to say it was because we were in slavery. Slavery ain’t got nothing to do with it. It’s willed down to the children now. Thirteen, twelve-year-old, ten-year-old boys, showing off and killing each other. Not fighting each other, but killing each other.
And it’s because we haven’t learned a sense of humility, a sense of balance. Your stuff ain’t no better than nobody’s else’s stuff, and if you hang around long enough, you won’t have your stuff! You’re just like that little old spoiled twenty-one-little-old girl, and by the time she got forty-one, all her stuff is going to the north pole. By the time she’s fifty-one, it’s going to Hell. Remember we said if you hear truth, say praise the Lord!
A sense of balance. A sense of humility. A sense of the divine. A sense of God. Don’t think too highly of yourself! Don’t go around acting as if I know everything. I’ve got all the answers. Only God knows everything. Only God has all the answers. Only God is perfect. You and I are growing in God. So now Paul says, if you have the gift of speaking in tongues, make certain you do it in order. Everybody, say, “Order.” That’s God’s simple rule for the universe. God raps his gavel and says, “Order. Order. Order.”
If you’ve got two children in your house, you got to have order. Here is the understanding. When you wake up in the morning, here’s what we expect of you. When you come home from school, here’s what we expect from you. You can’t live in disorder. That seat you sat in this morning will never be dusty when you arrive. Those streets will never be dirty when you arrive. Those ushers will never be uncouth when you arrive. You got to have order in your life! You got to have order. You can’t get drunk when you get this evil. You can’t get high when you’re feeling low.
We got to have some order I our lives. Now the divorce rate is 50 percent. So, children have one parent. Parent, stop feeling sorry for yourself. You gotta have order for those children. If one of the parents is missing, that missing parent, you have to set a time to be with your children. If you gonna keep them every other weekend, you have to be there to keep them every other weekend. And you don’t disappoint children. You’re not taking anything out of your mate. You and your mate should never have spoken, let alone get married. But you did. Now there’s some children, and because the two of you are foolish, don’t make them foolish. You don’t disappoint children. If you promise them, “I’m gonna take you to Disneyland,” you take them to Disneyland.
Something comes up. You need something to come up in your brain. Order. “Order,” says God. So, if you speak in tongues, both of you don’t speak at the same time. Two of you don’t speak at the same time. In any service, Paul says, no more than two or three, because even though the gift is given to you from God, you gotta have order in your life. What’s our saying? We can all sign together. But we can’t all what? Talk together.
Brothers, please don’t risk your lives. Don’t risk your health by trying to out-talk somebody who ain’t got the sense God gave a gopher. Can’t you look at that brother and see he’s got a problem? If he’s got a problem, then handle him. Just say, “Yes, I understand.” And walk away! You don’t have nothing to prove to that brother. And sisters, the easiest thing in the world is for a woman to get two men fighting over her. And then you gonna come to the funeral hollering and crying. And you’re the one should be in the casket! Don’t you understand? You don’t do things like that.
Because you put them against each other. My gracious brothers. And what are you fighting over, somebody that like both of y’all? Nobody can love two people at the same time. You can’t do it openly. So, if she tells you she love both of them, you say, “Well that’s fine, darling’. You got him!” And go on off, because it’s just like a street car. If you miss one, another one coming along.
Order! Order! Just because you got a gift, you don’t show off. You show forth! God gave you the gift of speaking in tongues so that you might bring order to the lives of someone else. Secondly, God says when I give you the gift of tongues, it’s for a reason. Not for a season. So, whenever you speak in tongues always have what? An interpreter. If you stand up, [baptized in the Spirit], you make certain somebody says, “God told me to stand here and say…” and somebody talks. Because Paul said, suppose everybody’s talking in tongues and somebody who is unsaved comes in the door. They’ll think y’all are crazy! And they’d be right.
If I stood here right now and start talking Spanish, you would think I’m crazier than you already think I am! I’m supposed to talk so that the person might be edified. We speak in tongues so that God might be glorified, that the unbeliever might be edified, that the church might not be vilified, the covenant may be ratified, and that the devil may be horrified.
We even come to holy communion acting as if we are unusual. Come into the altar of God, where 2,000 years ago, a nobody died for other nobodies like you and me. And out of that nobody-ness came the somebody-ness so that everybody here this morning can say I’m saved. I’m saved! Not because I am good, but because Jesus died for me! I am saved! I’m thankful to almighty God, and God has given me the gift of communicating.
Third, if you have no interpreter, talk silently to yourself and to God. Paul is telling us what we already know. Sometimes we need to be quiet. Tell our neighbor on your right, “Honey, hush! I’m trying to worship, and you’re pointing out somebody’s stockings who got a hole in them. Honey, hush!” Honey, hush. You don’t be punching your neighbor in the rib, pointing to the baritone, talking about, “That’s the one I’m gonna get.” Honey, hush! Honey, hush. At times we need to hear the Holy Spirit say, “Honey Hush!”
If you ain’t got something that’s edifying and glorifying, honey hush! I just got out of church. I feel so good. I feel like floating and I get out on the parking lot, and you tell me some stuff you saw through the keyhole–honey hush! If you got a life of your own, you don’t have to look through keyholes! You don’t have to talk about other people’s lives. You don’t have to put other people down. Honey, hush!
God is not the author of confusion, but of harmony. Thus, when something’s wrong, God helps you put it into harmony, just like Joe taught the choir: harmony. They not only were here Wednesday, they were here Saturday night, so this harmony isn’t here by accident. This harmony is here because they caught on fire, because they had a director. And the director of the universe is God. God will put the pieces together again. God will help you put your life, God will help you put your life together. You can’t go around crying over things.
Leonard Jackson, Earl Green and I were coming back from a funeral last week, and we stopped in a cafeteria on Crenshaw to eat. There was a man there, disheveled. And we could look in his eyes and we could see that, yes, he was under much strain. He was a strange person. He sat there and pulled on his diet Pepsi and ate his food. I knew that before we got out of there, he was gonna come to that table. We went from table to table and greeted everybody, greeted him, and it wasn’t over with him. There was something on his mind. If ever there was a confused man, it was this man.
When we were getting ready to go, he walks over to our table and he takes a dollar bill and he lays it on the table. I reach for a dollar bill myself because I’m certain he wants us to match it. You just as welcome. But he said, “No, Reverend, I want you to take this dollar and put it in the offering tray on Sunday.” I put it in this morning before the eight o’clock service started, and prayed. Put it in the offering tray. He said, “You see Reverend, I’m dying of cancer. And I want y’all to pray for me.” And we stood up and put our arms around him and prayed. Asked him, “What’s God saying to you?” He said, “God’s telling me that I’m not gonna die, that the doctor’s wrong! I want you to pray that God is right. I want you to pray that everything is gonna be all right, because I’m gonna trust in God. I’m gonna trust in God!”
We prayed for him, and he turned around and he walked out, and now there’s a new spring in his step. It is no secret what God can do. And other people, other people in the cafeteria began to hug him and to love him. God moves in mysterious ways! Thy way, oh Lord! In the name of Christ Jesus. Won’t you stand up? Won’t you stand up now if your life is confused? Take this time to say thank you, Lord, that you bring order out of confusion. If your situation is bad, thank God that God brings a revelation out of a situation. Thank you, Jesus, for order!
And if you have no church home, we are waiting for you here at the altar. Just come down the aisle. Give us your hand. We’ll take it from there. As the choir sings, as we rejoice, won’t you come? Won’t you come?