In this sermon, Rev. Murray preaches on learning how to cultivate “the inner eye.” The inner eye allows you to see past surface judgements and see people for who they really are on the inside. He also says the inner eye helps us to see God, as many people are lost, and don’t always know where to find God.
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.
“Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory”
October 29, 2000
God is good! God is good, all the time. Tell your neighbor, “Call Him up!”
Remind them they don’t have to worry about the toll call–Jesus paid it all. Jesus paid it all! So help me God, to pray together, to stay together. Nothing is more beautiful than seeing two or three people praying together. The brothers of the church, we admonish them, you find your strength in God. To never be ashamed to make your witness for God, you just have to love these mighty men of FAME, because in their rehearsals they are witnessing for God. They are happy and shouting and praising and praying to God.
Please let Isaiah tell us something, and see you if you agree with it. In true prayer, true prayer, you always see God. You always see God. You woke up this morning and got out by the side of your bed, did you see God? If it’s true prayer, it’s prayer initiated by God. God is in charge, so God shows up so that you can see God gives the orders to you; you are not giving the orders to God. You don’t go down on your knees to tell God what to do. You go down on your knees to get your orders from God. God gives you your orders. If you can fix it yourself, then you wouldn’t need God.
Reverend, I don’t know how to pray. You the best kind of prayer, son! Just shut your mouth, bend your knees, forget your ego, throw away all that! That is external, and God will reveal God’s self to you. God is in this place right now. If you believe it, say, “Yeah!”
God is in this place, and the first of the writers in the Old Testament of the new Isaiah, to give you and me a subjective description of what it’s like to really pray, what it’s really like to see God. That’s Isaiah. We gonna share that with him now, in your pew Bibles, turn to page 537, and then I’ll to you, audience, Isaiah 6, classical scripture. Isaiah 6, page 537. Please, darlings, use your Bibles and come to Bible study. The word of God is the medicine for our society. Come on and stand up now as we share, beginning at verse one, Isaiah 6.
“The year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord. The Lord was sitting on a lofty throne, and the temple was filled with God’s glory. Hovering about Him were mighty six-winged seraphs. With two of their wings they covered their faces, with two others they covered their feet, and with two they flew. In a great, antiphonal chorus they sang: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts! The whole Earth is filled with his glory. Such singing it was, it shook the temple to its foundations, and suddenly the entire sanctuary was filled with smoke.
Then I said, my doom is sealed, for I am a foul-mouthed sinner, a member of a sinful foul-mouth race, and I have looked upon the King, the Lord of Heaven. Then one of the seraphs flew over to the altar and, with a pair of tongues, picked out a burning coal. He touched my lips with it and said, ‘Now you are pronounced not guilty because this coal has touched your lips. Your sins are all forgiven.’ Then I heard the Lord asking, whom shall I send as a messenger to my people? Who will go, and I said…”–everybody come on and say–“Lord, I’ll go!”
Say it again: “Lord, I’ll go!” Send me! Send me. Take your seats with honor.
In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord. Our subject: mine eyes have seen the glory. Before you leave this sanctuary, we want you to have seen God. Want you to forget everything else, but concentrating on seeing God. Pastor, I’ve already seen Him. Fine, fine, fine. I don’t know, maybe you like Isaiah. Isaiah says, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord.”
He really meant, “I finally saw the Lord, because the Lord has been around all along.”
You just haven’t seen Him, Isaiah! In the year that King Uzziah died, I finally saw the Lord. A whole lot of folks been coming to the church all their lives and have never seen the Lord. Whole lot of us know every hymn in the hymn book, but have never seen the Lord.
A whole lot of us can swallow and the Bible and regurgitate it out and have never seen the Lord. But in the year that King Uzziah died, I finally saw the Lord! Isaiah, how can you be a prophet of God and have not seen God before? Well, Reverend, I can tell you, I know a whole lot of preachers who ain’t seen God. I know a whole lot of church officers who have never seen God. I know a whole lot of folks who are talking about God and have not seen God. What’s that song you all sing? Everybody talking about heaven ain’t going to heaven!
I know a whole lot of folks who’ve never seen God, but I think you got to cultivate your mind’s eye, says Isaiah. You have to cultivate the inner eye. Some of us have only an outer eye. Some of my precious ones out there, and next year going in the high and finding husbands for you. But as the men came to the altar, some of you all saw those men only with your outer eye. Remember that lady I told you about who sat next that 85-year-old man at that supper, and she kept staring at him. Just kept staring at him and finally he sees.
She says, “Excuse me for staring, but you look just like my third husband.”
“Oh really, how many times have you been married?”
Smiling and patting his hand, she says, “Twice.”
Yeah, we wait on you. You have to cultivate the inner eye. You want to see that something within, because people don’t surprise us. How do you get married, and two years later you want to throw the person away–throw her away, throw him away? They haven’t changed! They were the same thing when you all came down the aisle. They were the same thing!
You need to start looking with the inner eye. You need to come to church and ask, “Is there any word from the Lord?”
You need to touch your friend’s hand and say, “Thank you for loving me.”
Need to cultivate the inner eye, and you can’t always judge by appearances. Some of us outer people with all of our fancy clothes, our fancy jewelry, our fancy shoes, our fancy cologne, our fancy education are just as empty inside as a cave. That’s because we are concentrating too much on the outer person and we need to concentrate more on the inner person. You need to get on the inside. I saw the Lord! I saw Him. I saw the Lord with my inner eye!
I couldn’t see him before I was too busy being Isaiah, the most brilliant of the prophets. I was too busy being the one who could tell everybody else what to do, that I couldn’t let God tell me what to do. I was too busy walking tall and trying to be regal when I should have just balanced myself a little bit and let the King talk to me. I was too busy being stoic, I would sit up in church and I wouldn’t even say “Praise the Lord!” People were trying to praise, and I was just sitting there as if I’m lighting a tree to something.
Let everybody who wants to see the Lord say, “Praise the Lord!”
Praise the Lord. God takes the initiative. God comes into you. God knows your pain. God knows when you’re hurting. God knows your needs. God knows your dreams. God helps you because God gives you the dreams. God just wants you to surrender.
“Lord, I’m scared,” and then God comes in and calms you. “Lord, I’m worried,” then He soothes my doubts and He calms my fears. He dries all my tears. You got to ask some of these in Scripture who have finally seen the Lord.
One of them is 70-some years old, a fugitive from justice, has fled out from Egypt and now is married and is out in the wilderness, and God appears to him in the form of a burning bush. You know his name: Moses. You find his story in Exodus 3:3. Well, burning bush comes to God. When God comes to you, you feel a little fire burning, and you just can’t keep it to yourself. You have to raise your hand and say, “Lord, have mercy!” Take off your shoes. You’re on holy ground! Take off yourself–you’re on holy ground. Feel a little fire burning.
Ezekiel, 5th century. I’m in Ezekiel 1:1. I was 30 years old when I saw the heavens open. Now I was 30 years old, see only the stars. They don’t see God. They are so busy, so busy being Hilfiger-ish, they are so busy being on the screen, they are so busy being Hollywood. They don’t have time to see the wood of the Cross. I was 30 years old when I saw the heavens open and I saw the Lord! Paul, when did you see the Lord? Acts 9:1 through 9. I was riding my high horse going to Damascus.
I had my Beemer, I had my BMW, I had my bank account. I was riding my high horse going to Damascus. I knew what God wanted me to do. I knew more than God knew, and then a blinding light came, and it struck me from my high horse. Sometimes God has to make you blind before God can let you see. Sometimes God has to make you deaf before God can make you hear. Sometimes God has to let you go hungry before God can feed you. Sometimes God has to let you get knocked down before God can pick you up. Jesus…Jesus, when did you see God?
Mark 1. Jesus…Mark 1:9 through 11. I was 30 years old. I was out being baptized by my cousin John. I was doing alright in the carpentry business up in Nazareth, but I went down south because God called me down south. I wanted to get married and start some children. I had already taken care of my mother. My father had died. I was the oldest of them and I was responsible. Now I said, it’s time for me, but God had another plan for me. As I came up out of the waters of baptism, I saw the heavens open and I heard a voice proclaiming, “This is my beloved son!” And since that day I’ve been focused. I’ll do anything for God.
I want to witness to you: The carpentry shop is nothing compared to the Cross. I want to witness to you: The bank account is nothing compared to God’s account. I want to witness to you: Looking out for yourself is nothing compared to looking out for others. I’ve started with God. When did you see God? When did you see God? Pastor, I ain’t sure I have seen God. Aren’t you beautiful? At least you didn’t fake it! At least you didn’t fake it, because everybody saying they seen God, haven’t seen God, because if you’ve seen God, there’s a change in your life.
If you’ve seen God, those things that you used to call issues ain’t issues no more. If you’ve seen God, you don’t go around feeling sorry for yourself, because there are too many people that you can help instead of feeling sorry for yourself. If you’ve seen God, you saw that homeless man outdoors and by the church as you came in. If you’ve seen God, you saw that he had a tattered hat on his head and an old tattered coat covering him up, and that he was wet from the recent dew. If you’ve seen God, you saw that his shoes were too small for his feet, and he had taken a razor and cut holes in his shoes so his toes could breath. If you have seen God.
I saw God. Yes, Isaiah. Can you document it? I’m a little cynical. See Isaiah, well you remember King Uzziah, King Uzziah who ruled Israel for 50 years? Good Lord! You remember the year King Uzziah died? That was the year I saw the Lord. King Uzziah died of leprosy. He died in sin. Lord Acton says, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. He used to be a man of God. He prayed three times a day. He’d look out for the subjects in his kingdom, but then he got corrupt. He stopped coming to church. He started moving, and ever since he moved off to Wilshire Boulevard, you can’t do nothing with Isaiah.
Long as he was staying down on Century Boulevard, he was the nicest person in the world. As long as he was staying down in South Central, he was the nicest person in the world, but now he’s up at Diamond Bar, now he’s up at Beverly Hills, and he doesn’t even have enough sense to know that in an earthquake, the first thing to fall down are the hills. You better be down in Watts if you going to be saved!
The King of Israel. The King of Israel dies, but the God of Israel lives forever, and He shall reign how long? Forever and ever! Put not your trust in princes. Thank you for the glitter of this magnificent land, Southern California, but put not your trust in princes. Thank you that we’re gonna get out on November 7 and vote, but put not your trust in princes. Thanks be to God for your retirement plan, but put not your trust in princes or in prices. Some of us wouldn’t know God if we saw God!
I’ve been looking for God everywhere. If you’ve been looking for God and you can’t find God, guess who’s lost? It ain’t God! Just need the inner eye to see the real from what’s not real.
Four Catholic ladies were talking together. One of them said, my son is a priest. When he comes in the room everyone calls him “father.” My son is a bishop, and when he comes in the room, everybody calls him “your excellence.” My son is a cardinal, and when he comes in the room, everybody calls him “your eminence.” They looked at the fourth lady, who didn’t say anything. She was just listening. Well what about you? What about you? My son is a six-foot-three, buffed-out, hard-bodied stripper, and when he walks in the room, everybody says, “Oh my God!”
Tell your neighbor, “There ain’t nothing like the real thing!”
Oh my God, I saw the Lord! Isaiah, with your mind’s eye, what did you see? His train filled the temple, his garment filled the temple. There was no room for anything else. When God comes into your life, God is everything you need. There is no more room. He’s got the whole world in His hand. He got everybody here. I saw the seraphim. I saw the seraphim, and their wings covered their eyes and their feet, they knew that in the presence of God they were not worthy to look upon the face of God. They also knew that the brilliance of the light of God would blind anybody who saw it. If you’re going into see God, you better wear some dark glasses. You better wear some smoked glasses. God will blind you! Be prepared for God to take away your wisdom and to give you some new wisdom, and there was fire everywhere.
John Wesley tells this preacher who’s complaining, bishop I do the best I can, but I’m not growing. People are not joining the church, people are not giving any money in the church, bishop what can I do? And the bishop gave him the advice, catch on fire, and somebody will come out to watch you burn! Hey, do you feel a little fire burning this morning? Catch on fire! Stop being so laid back. Stop being so cool. Catch on fire!
Then I cried, I’m unworthy because they were singing antiphonally. I think that means back and forth, back and forth. We’re gonna divide the sanctuary in half. Right on down and downstairs in the plaza, you on the eastern half of the western half…on the eastern half, we want you to cry at the top of your voice: Holy, holy, holy! Then we gonna get the west to holy, holy! Then we going back and forth. Come on and shake the roof! Eastern half, alcove eastern half of the choir and the balcony. Come on: Holy, holy, holy! Make the roof come down! The temple began to shake, and there was smoke, and Isaiah cries, Oh my God, oh my God! I don’t have a clean mouth. How can I witness to God? And one of the seraphim took a hot coal. God always works with the part of you that’s causing you the problem.
God will work with some of our lips. God will work with some of our mouths. God will work with some of our bank accounts. God will work with some of us you know how. God works with the part that’s messing you up, and when I felt cleansed… I’ll go for you, Lord!
I’ll go for you, and he’s like that preacher. The people were coming in the church and they passed that homeless man I told you about, big hat pulled down over his face, leaning against the walls, ragged coat covering his body, shoes… My generation, we had a lot of corns and bunions, and the old timers would take a razor blade and cut holes in them shoes, that were designed for them European feet, not them African feet, and the people would pass him by and come on in the church. It’s time for church to start now!
And, Lord have mercy, that homeless, obnoxious man comes down the aisle, comes up into the pulpit, takes off his hat, takes off his coat: Lord, it’s our preacher! It’s our preacher! I don’t think I need to tell you what I’m gonna preach about today, he said. Then he started a song, if I can help somebody as I travel along. If I can cheer somebody, with a word or a song. If I can show somebody is traveling wrong, then my living has not been in vain. Stand up, let’s sing it!