Harrell Beck

The Wisdom of Harrell Beck

Dirty Words


Can you stand a few dirty words this morning? God made man and woman – ingenious! And the dirty word in the miscarriage of that covenant is chauvinism. The beautiful word – when it works – is liberation! God made the races! When it works, the word is integration. And when it doesn’t, perhaps the dirtiest word of my century: segregation. God made the nations!  God’s hope is Peace! Shalom! Salam! And almost the dirtiest terms of our time are killing terms – and doesn’t it make you sick at the stomach when the American Media semi-celebrates tragedy in the Russian Atomic tragedy? How mean can we get?

God made different religious traditions. Ask me how I was so prenatally brilliant to be born a white male in Nebraska?  Republican!  Moose!  Three quarters of the human race didn’t have my prenatal brilliance! Oh, I wish they were Christian -- but they aren’t!  And among the great world religious traditions, surely the decency of Christ tells us that the covenant word is conversation. The dirty word is contempt.

God made us and said, “You won’t be anybody until you get together with somebody. You were born to be a covenant person.”  And when I do that, I get that wonderful gift that I aspire to – and that is self-esteem. And when I don’t, the hardest word in the vocabulary of the psychiatrist has something to do with schizophrenia, which I wouldn’t even try to define in front of an intelligent audience.

Covenant! Covenant is the purpose of creation and it is a big word! So big that the Bible takes it as its own name, the Older Covenant and the Newer Covenant. And my Lord is prince of the Covenant!  Because he gave his life for everyone, and will not be at peace until everyone is in relationship peaceably and creatively with the other.

Dear colleagues, I have seen covenant love at the hand of God turn a shepherd into a King. I’ve seen covenant love turn a carpenter into a Messiah. I’ve seen covenant love take twelve fishermen (what kind of Sunday School they went to for two years, I don’t know!) -- but at the end of it they graduated and were given the keys to the Kingdom. I’ve seen covenant love take an old bird who couldn’t sing anything but “Ho! Ho! Ho! and turn a child’s cry and a rumpled stocking into a squeal of delight. I’ve seen covenant love take a little boy’s Sunday School basket and feed five thousand people. If this will not hold the world together – what have we got?

The Heart of Biblical Faith May 13, 1986 Preaching Conference, Arrowhead Springs