SOUTH LOS ANGELES — The Rev. Al Sharpton appeared as the special guest at Southern St. Paul Baptist Church during its Heritage Sunday celebration Feb. 17, where he was greeted with thunderous applause during the church’s Black History Month celebration.
“We have greatness in our midst,” said Southern St. Paul Baptist Pastor Xavier L. Thompson, who introduced Sharpton who had flown in on a 2 a.m. flight to attend the service.
Sharpton said he was scheduled to appear at both Southern St. Paul and Calvary Baptist Church that morning and chuckled when he surmised about what some people might say.
“‘Al is getting old, he can’t cover two services,’” he said. “But I came out just to shut folks up.”
Sharpton, an outspoken civil rights activist, was in good spirits during the service, but surprised many when he declined to deliver any opinions regarding President Donald Trump or the tumultuous political climate currently existing in Washington, D. C.
Instead, Sharpton delivered a good “old-fashioned” sermon that had those in the congregation shouting and standing on their feet.
“You thought Sharpton was going to come in here and slam Donald Trump, right? Thompson said after Sharpton’s sermon. “He didn’t even mention his name. He came here to preach.”
Reflecting on Black History Month and the brave men and women who for fought for freedom for decades, Sharpton said, “We went from the back of the bus to the front of the White House.
“Even though we can go from our history of being enslaved until now, we (still) have Gov. Northan who was standing in black face next to someone in a Ku Klux Klan costume,” he said, referring to a recent controversy over a college photo of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northan.
Pausing, he said, “As we celebrate Black History Month, I see a lot of collaboration happening across the country — but it seems that they left something out.
“The missing part of black history that is not being told is that we made it because we are a spiritual people,” Sharpton said. “Folks say, ‘We don’t want no faith-based leadership,’ but you can’t last all on your own. You must depend on a higher power.
“Our power and strength didn’t come from men. It came from God,” Sharpton said. “Even when we were slaves and they broke up our families and sold us away, they couldn’t break our spirits. The master couldn’t understand why we were singing those old spirituals and gospel songs, but we knew that trouble wouldn’t last always.”
The MSNBC radio/talk show host and founder of the National Action Network, a nonprofit civil eights organization, reflected on his beginnings as a Pentecostal boy preacher who delivered his first sermon at the age of 4.
He recalls that many scoffed and made fun of his youth and spirited testimony. “But my mother said, ‘Don’t worry what folks will say — just go ahead and preach.’”
Reflecting on his close-knit family, Sharpton said, “My dad left me as a little boy, but I grew up in a family of strong, formidable black women who told me the world was mine.
“I had to pray, cry sometimes and walk by myself, but God always walked with me. They didn’t make a way for me, but God who wiped the tears from my eyes,” Sharpton said.
“I been lied about, cheated, mistreated, and prosecuted. I been up and I been down, but through it all, I learned to trust in God and I learned to depend on his word.”
Pausing, he told the audience, “God will make a way out of no way. Yes he will.”
Quoting from the Book of John in the New Testament, Sharpton said, “Rise — take up your bed and walk.”
“People will say, ‘I know I’ll get well when the angels stir the water. What do the invalid and sick talk about? They confirm each other’s infirmities, but the reason they can’t be delivered is because they can’t get up by themselves.
“Jesus said, ‘Do you want to be made whole?’ Folks say, ‘I been lying here for 37 years, and nobody asked me.’
“God says, ‘I didn’t ask you that. Do you want to be made whole?’ We always complain when we’re down. But the question is, do you have the courage to get up?
“You been lying near the pool, but God said, ‘Pick up your bed and walk.’ Wait a minute. You can’t carry your bed on your back. If you listen to God you will stand even with the creator.”
“If you’re sick, don’t hang around sick folks,” Sharpton said. “If you’re broke, don’t hang around broke folks. I was hanging with (rappers) Jay Z and Diddy. I don’t have their money, but I thought that maybe they’d drop a bag [of money] one day.
“I know we live in times of controversy. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the night from the day. But don’t get it twisted. If the wind blows and the storms come, God will walk with you,” Sharpton said.