It is common to hear of the death of famous people whose lives in some way have helped shaped ours. Last weekend saw the death of three such big men.
Dave Brockhoff was one of the great men of Australian Rugby Union. I do not remember him has a champion player, but I do remember him as the dreaded coach of the Sydney Uni in my youth. He also coached NSW and Australia in a very different era, when five-eights kicked 'into the box' and 10 man rugby was all the go. Brockhoff was part of the old culture amateur rugby elite and I am told in recent years was still found every week at NSW Waratahs training and regularly on tour with both the Waratahs and Australian Wallabies.
Rex Mossop was a dual international player (Rugby Union and League), but was also the man who really established rugby league on TV. As a kid I watched Rex’s Sunday morning 'footy show', in a day when such shows were actually about sport. The famous Controversy Corner with Rex, Ferris Ashton, Noel Kelly and others used to argue passionately every week about the game. About the only exotic thing on the show was a football passing competition.
The third death in the last week was Clarence Clemons. Clarence, at 6 foot 5 inches, was big enough to play rugby but was instead, amongst other things, the saxophone player for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. Springsteen once described his band as one modeled on the show bands of his youth. Clarence was the show in any show band. Springsteen fans around the world will be sad that never again can they see Bruce in concert with the Big Man. As Springsteen himself commented: “He was my great friend, my partner and with Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music.”
These three individuals were unique, irreplaceable, precious, different, but far from perfect. Brockhoff was villain just as much as hero. On the field Mossop was known for his thuggery and on TV and real life he was not much better. Clarence could make a sax soar, but when 5 ex-wives gather at his funeral, life’s complexity will be evident to all.
There will be all sorts of cliches to follow about rugby heaven and the great rock and roll of the sky, but they are only words if we have no real hope. Jesus' death on the cross was for believers, the death of death. The only hope we have of true immortality is to take the hand of the One who passed through life to death and through death to life. Our human achievements, no matter how glorious, will hardly impress a holy God who sees and knows all.
Death remains the great enemy.
Christ, who died and rose again, remains our only hope.
“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1Corinthians 15: 54-57