In this sermon, Rev. Murray reminds us that God will always be here for us, even when we lose what we have. He says the difference between a house and a home is that a home is where love exists. Even if you lose your house, if you love and trust in God, you will always have a home. However, it is always important to be thankful for the things we have, like houses, as long as you remember to thank God and give credit to God for those material possessions, and always put love first.
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.
“When This Tent is Taken Down”
October 24, 2004
What is it going to be? Taking the lower ground, or taking the high ground?
Everybody, say, “Living outside of the circus tent.”
You can live inside of it if you want to. It’s alright. You can go through life as a show-pony. You can go through life as a show-off. You can go through life imagining. You can go through life fronting. You can live inside the circus tent. Just remember one thing: Sooner or later, that tent is going to come crashing down!
Sooner or later, your show is even going to show-off. Sooner or later, that tent is going to crash down. It will be torn down. It will be thrown down. It will be knocked down. Sooner or later, if you live inside the circus tent, your tent is going to come tumbling down.
If you live outside of the tent, if you’re for real, tell your neighbor: “I’m for real!” Tell your neighbor, “I’m for real!”
If you live outside of the circus tent, you may be homeless, but you still have a home. You may be homeless, but you have a house not made with human hands. If you live outside the circus tent, Paul tells you, we will have wonderful new homes.
Take your Bible tonight and turn to Two Corinthians Five, page 933 in your green pew Bibles. Page 660 in your red pew Bibles. Two Corinthians, verse five. If you have a little energy, let’s stand and read the Word together. Two Corinthians Five: “For we know that when this tent we live in now is taken down, when we die and leave these bodies, we will have wonderful new bodies in heaven, homes that will be ours forever more, made for us by God Himself, and not by human hands.”
“How weary we grow of our present bodies. That is why we look forward eagerly to the day when we shall have heavenly bodies, which we shall put on like new clothes, for we shall not be merely spirits without bodies. These earthly bodies make us groan and sigh.”
Everybody got arthritis, say, “Amen!”
We wouldn’t like to think of dying and having no bodies at all. We want to slip into our new bodies so that these dying bodies will, as it were, be swallowed up by everlasting life. That is why God has prepared for us as a guarantee, God has given us His Holy Spirit. We shall have wonderful new homes. Our subject: When this tent is torn down, when this tent is taken down.
Everybody, say, “This old house.” Point to yourself and say, “This old house.” That’s the first of three things that we want to talk about. This old house wants new and sparkling. This old house wants standing on the corner. This old house wants escalating in value. This old house wants new and shiny, but I ain’t gonna need this old house no longer. Ain’t got time to fix the window. Ain’t got time to fix the door. Ain’t going to need this house no longer. I’m getting ready to meet the train!
This old house, Paul thinks of heaven as a house. Paul thinks of heaven as an eternal home. We don’t talk about heaven and hell much here. As much hell as we catch, we don’t need to hear about hell all the time in the pulpit! As little heaven as we catch, we need to keep that out there as something that’s going to happen. Everybody say, “Heaven is my home, but I ain’t homesick.”
That’s right. As long as we are here on Earth, Paul says, don’t worry too much about heaven, but you’ve got to think about it sometimes. This old house is where Paul expresses for God’s house. Jesus says, “In My Father’s house are many mansions.” In My Father’s house, there’s a place for you and you and you. In My Father’s house, you don’t have to worry. “My Father’s house is a dwelling place. My Father’s House is a resting place.” My Father’s House is a healing place. My Father’s house is a helping place. In My Father’s house, there’s room for everybody here.
There’s a difference, of course, between a house and a home. Just about every one of us here knows what it is to get homesick, but seldom do you get house-sick. You ain’t missing your house back in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, New York, Detroit. You ain’t missing your house, you’re missing your home. The difference is that there’s a feeling of love in a home. Somebody here may be staying in a $700,000 house, but there’s no happiness in your house. Somebody here may be staying in a house that you bought for $35,000 40 years ago, but there is joy in your home.
The difference between a house and a home is the love that is there. The love can be there if God is there. If you’re sleeping on the sidewalk, if God is by your side, “Yea, even though you walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death,” you’ve got a home. This old house.
Ms. [O’Gwen] of Tennessee, Ms. O’Gwen gets news that her son has been killed in Vietnam. Oh, my goodness, what a pain for a parent to lose a child! “For God so loved the world that God gave His only child. God gave His only begotten Son.” God surrendered a part of God’s very self. That child was a part of Ms. O’Gwen’s very self. She got word that her son has been killed.
Later, she gets another word. It’s a special delivery that we’ve made a mistake, Ms. O’Gwen. We are so sorry. It wasn’t your son. The FBI investigates using fingerprints, and they prove, no, it’s not Ms. O’Gwen’s son. It’s another. Even though you feel the pain for the other mother, you can feel the joy for Ms. O’Gwen, and they compensate for the mistake they’ve made. The military sends the son home on an extended leave to be with his mother.
We used to sing a spiritual: “I want to see my mother going home to live with God. I want to meet my father. I want to see my brother. I want to see my Savior. I want to see my Jesus. Going home to live with God!” You know what it is to get homesick, but nobody here gets house-sick. If you’re homesick, you ought to sometimes say, “I just called to say I love you.”
You ought to tell your momma, “I love you!” while you’ve got your momma. You ought to tell your daddy, “I love you!” while you’ve got your daddy. You ought to tell your God, “I love you!” while you’ve got your God. You may not have this old house that much longer, but as long as I’ve got it, I want to say, “Thank You, Lord!”
There’s another house, not made with human hands. They don’t charge any rent there, because “Jesus paid it all.” Some of us are here worrying about homeownership. We can help you with that at FAME Renaissance. It isn’t that board. It isn’t that nail. It isn’t what that hammer can make. It’s what that Carpenter can make in your life. Jesus can make a difference in your life. If you believe it, say, “Yes!”
Jesus can make a difference in your life, as long as you’re broke and not broken, Jesus can make a difference in your life. As long as you’ve got a refrigerator, Jesus knows how to fill it. As long as you’ve got a heart, Jesus knows how to put hope in it. As long as you’ve got a breath, Jesus knows how to give meaning to your life. Everybody, say, “This old house!”
These old clothes. That’s the second thing we’re talking about when this tent comes down. This old house, these old clothes. Paul says, “I don’t care how buffed out you are. Sooner or later, you’ve got to get a new body. You 36-26-36, that’s fine, but you keep on hanging on, you’ll be 76-56-96.
That’s why you can’t understand why you’re living in that circus tent. If you’re fine, you didn’t make the sugar! Somebody else made the sugar. God made the sugar. Your mom and your daddy made the sugar. All you’ve got to do is refine the sugar, take care of the sugar. What have you got that wasn’t given to you? What do you know that wasn’t given to you?
God is saying that this old house must come tumbling down. This old body must become a new body. If you become a new body, I’ve got some new clothes for you. Do you hear Paul telling us about that? If you become a new body, I’ve got some new clothes for you.
He’s talking old-fashioned language, over 2,000 years ago. They’re expecting the end of the world. Right now, you and I ain’t looking for no end of the world. Best we get is a storm or an earthquake once in a while. The Seventh Day Adventists say, “Any day now, it’s coming.” You and I don’t even think about that. Even if you don’t believe this world is going to be ended one day, you ought to understand from common sense, you and I are going to be ended.
This old body is going to be ended. “Earth to Earth, ashes to ashes,” but was not spoken of the soul. The soul can go on. While you have that soul enclothed in this body, you ought to take care of that soul. You ought to take care of that body. Our young people coming up learn health in school. They’ve somehow got to implement that health. They’re going to live to be 120 years of age. If you don’t take care of them first 30 years, they’re going to mess up the rest of them 90 years. You’ve got to take care of yourself!
If you’re going to get new clothing, you’ve got to invest in it. “Ain’t nothing free,” says Paul. We’ve gotten to the place we think something is free. Anybody here think somebody owe you something? Yeah. Keep on living. You’ll find out nobody owe you nothing. Anybody here think the world is picking on you? Well, it may be picking on you, but it’s picking on everybody else, too. Everybody got a problem. When you go to your doctor and you’re 50 years old, and your doctor tells you that something is wrong with you, why are you having a pity party? You ought to be grateful that for 50 years, something wasn’t wrong with you!
We are praying like mad for Dr. William Young. Everybody here who knows him, knows that’s the hardest working doctor in the world. He has patients in the congregation, and we’ve had prayer vigils for him. Even the doctor has to have his body threatened sometimes. Even the Savior, Jesus, with nail prints in His hands and in His feet, even He has to say, “Father, into Thy hands I commit My Spirit.”
Every time we have a funeral, we have to comfort the living, but everybody here knows, sooner or later, somebody is going to be comforting your family. You’ve got to go this way along. “While you have this old body, it can become a new body, and you can get some new clothing,” says Paul. You’ve got to make an investment. We’re not an investment generation.
It’s well said, “Grandfather, Old MacDonald had a farm.” Remember that song? “Old MacDonald had a farm.” Old MacDonald’s son had a garden. Old MacDonald’s grandson had a can opener. We have to invest in the new clothing. Grandmother had a sewing machine. Some people here don’t even know what a sewing machine looks like. There wasn’t any house you couldn’t go into where you didn’t find a sewing machine. And a piano.
It’s a funny thing about that. The piano adds music to your soul. When you couldn’t afford music lessons, you would sit there and start off with “Coon Shine Baby.” You might go on from there. When you could afford music lessons, and a sewing machine, you learned it from Grandma’s hands. Grandma had a sewing machine. Grandma’s daughter had a needle. Grandma’s granddaughter had a credit card.
It’s alright as long as you remember you don’t pay the bill for the credit card. It’s alright to have that credit card as long as you remember, “Jesus paid it all.” It’s alright to have that credit card as long as you realize you’ve got credit laid up in heaven. It’s alright to have that credit card when you are dressed well and you look on the label and the label says, “Made by God. Made by God.”
That credit card was paid for on Calvary’s hill. That credit card was given to you by God. That credit card is your new clothing. Time you threw away your old clothing. Throw away that clothing by Valentino. Throw away that clothing by Hugo Boss. Throw away that clothing by Calvin Klein, and be sure to throw away that clothing by Hilfiger. Hilfiger. Hilfiger. Hilfiger can’t figure you all out. Hilfiger said, “I can’t figure them out. I didn’t design my clothes for them. I told them I thought they were too insecure and inferior to buy my clothes. I look around; they’ll kill each other to wear my name stamped on their chest.”
When are they going to learn who really gave them their clothing? When are they going to learn who really gave them their credit card? Wasn’t it Jesus? Throw away this old clothing. Throw away this old way. Come on out of that circus tent. Stop proving something that you don’t have to prove. Stop boasting of yourself. Stop talking of yourself so much. Stop having such a strong opinion that folks have to look upon you as God. Stop acting as if it’s you who gives you what you have and not God. Stop boasting about how great you are. Everybody, point up and say, “How great Thou art!”
In 1867, they experimented with a new submarine powered by steam engine. They called it Resurgam. That was its name: Resurgam. It means, “I shall rise again.” During its testing, Resurgam was doing alright, but as the testing continued, Resurgam sank and was never heard from again. That’s the way it is with our homemade stuff. When you’re made out of God’s stuff, you hear Jesus say, “I’ll rise again. Aint’ no power on Earth can keep Me down. I’ll rise again. Death can’t keep this body in the ground.”
I’ll rise again. My relationship may have fallen apart. My check may have fallen apart. My friendship may have fallen apart, but there ain’t no power on Earth can keep me down. I’ve got a new body. I’ve got new clothes. I’ve got a new home, eternal in the heavens, when this tent is taken down!
Well, we’ve talked about the old house, this old house, and we’ve talked about these old clothes. Now, we’re talking about this new spirit. Touch yourself and say, “I am spirit!”
I am spirit! You are 90 percent spirit, and only 10 percent flesh and blood. That flesh and blood is not what you are made out of. You are made out of spirit. When you come to God, you are talking to the Spirit of God. When you fall by the side of your bed, or when you kneel at the railing, or when you sit where you are and have a little talk with Jesus, it’s your spirit that’s talking to God. Everybody in medicine knows that it isn’t the flesh that heals the flesh, it’s the spirit that heals the spirit.
Remember that world-famous doctor saying, “We doctors have done all we could for a patient, and the patient still was slipping away. Then, I noticed a preacher come into the room and does something strange with that patient. In a few days, the patient has improved. I don’t know what it was, but it worked.”
I want to tell you, doctor, it was the Holy Spirit of Almighty God! “Holy, holy, holy, holy, somebody touched me, and it must have been the hand of the Lord!”
Paul says, “The Holy Spirit whispers in your ear, ‘I want to tell you, glory is on its way. I want you to stop worrying so much. Glory is on its way. Alright, so you’re not making enough money. Don’t worry so much about it. Trust in the Lord. Glory is on its way. So, Daddy doesn’t come to see you as much as Daddy should come, since the divorce. That’s all right. I’ll be your Father. Glory is on its way.'”
It’s the Holy Spirit that wakes you up in the morning. It’s the Holy Spirit that lets you go to sleep at night. It’s the Holy Spirit that helps you make it through college. It’s the Holy Spirit that helps you make it through your divorce. It’s the Holy Spirit that lifts you up when the world has put you down. It’s the Holy Spirit!
The Holy Spirit whispers in your ear, “Don’t block your blessing.” Some of us come to church, and God makes everything all right. Then, the minute we prosper, we start missing church. How do you treat God like that? Don’t you see you’re blocking your blessing? God helps some of us to go to a six-figure income, down from $16 an hour or $6 an hour. Then, my God, we get so arrogant, you’d think we were the king or queen of England! Our chin is so high in the air, and we’ve got the nerve to be looking down our noses. Big as your nose is, you can’t miss it! You don’t have to look down it. Blocking our blessing.
There is the Holy Spirit of God trying to get in, but I’ve put up a barrier there. I’m blocking my blessing. God keeps knocking on the door. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock!” You are so arrogant, sitting there in your plush couch with your two- or three-car garage. God says, “Don’t block your blessing! When you talk to Me, you don’t have to talk. I want you to listen! I’ve got some good news for you. I want to let you know that glory is on its way. I want to let you know that no matter what happens to you, I’m still here for you. I want you to know that you can make good grades in school, and you can be a good kid, even though you’re living in a bad environment. I want you to know that just because you come from the ghetto, the ghetto doesn’t have to come from you. I want you to know these things. I’ll take care of you.”
How many of you have ever been to Niagara Falls? Oh, my stars! Niagara Falls. One-hundred sixty feet from the top, there’s a cave. They call it “The Cave of the Wind.” That particular waterfall is called the American waterfall. One-hundred sixty feet down, there’s a cave for protection. A guide will take tourists, and they’ll walk very carefully, all of them bound completely in rubber garments from head to foot, and they walk the precipitous rocks. Soon, they reach and get inside of the cave.
Inside of the cave, they can see the waters cascading down. If they were at the bottom of the waterfall, they would be killed. The water throws spray at them a little. Spray comes in. That’s alright. You’ve got to touch and see what hurt is like sometimes. Somehow or another, you get the point as that water comes cascading down, “Be not dismayed. Whate’er betide, God will take care of you.”
When life is falling down, God will take care of you. When this old house is falling down, when this old body is falling down, when these old clothes are thrown away, have mercy, Lord. When everything is gone away, God will take care of you. He will lift you up!
“Lord! Hide me, and I will give You the praise!”
Stand to your feet. Put your hands together. Thank You, Lord! When this tent is taken down, thank You!