Easter Sunday 5 April 2015 the Reverend Dr Gordon Moyes died. The day of his thanksgiving service at Wesley Church in Sydney, 10 April 2015, cricket legend Richie Benaud died.
For Australian and many international evangelical Christians, Gordon Moyes was, not to put a too fine a point on it, the Royalty of evangelicalism - his accomplishments legend, his spiritual leadership was prowess to a nation submerged in hedonism and humanism. For such acclaimed ministry the nation conferred upon Gordon Moyes its highest civilian honour, the A.C.
The religious press ran articles and features on the life and ministry of Gordon Moyes. The secular ministry begrudgingly gave him a column here and there, mostly a few lines.
Yet, Gordon Moyes through his media ministry – television and radio and Discovery documentary series (Jesus, Paul, The Early Church) – along with Turn Around Australia – his 2GB Sunday nights - and his preaching ministry – around the nation – no town too small – and his leadership at Wesley Mission with so many new constructions of retirement and nursing homes, youth hostels and the like – all this is what movies are made of.
It was said his message of Jesus Christ changed many lives in that it put shoes on the feet of the children of former dysfunctional homes.
There was nothing too astonishing and mind-blowing could be said about Gordon Moyes – and it all turned out to be true. He was one of those rare human beings who the Lord called unto himself and with a clarity of thinking, a sharp mind, an understanding of the value of media, a brilliant comprehension of theology and the evangelical cause, a wonderfully support wife and rich family life. The Lord poured His favour upon Gordon Moyes and his ministries.
At his thanksgiving service, in my mind's a celestial choir was standing and rejoicing over a faithful servant who brought the good news of Jesus Salvation to his generation. I was part of that generation and I wrote of this in this very column on the 13 April.
The nation took little notice when he died. Gordon Moyes was a religious figure who most rarely took note of, if ever, even his name more than likely would not be recognised if asked in one of those street surveys: "Do you recognise the name Gordon Moyes?"
But in the heavenlies, Gordon Moyes' name is in capital letters and all those who came to Jesus, philosophically falling at the foot of the Cross as a result of his ministry, rejoicing in the Lord will be celebrating Gordon's earthly impact toward their eternal benefit.
A cricket story
You may not realise this, but I have yet to find any reference in the Scriptures to a rugby heaven, a golfing heaven, a cuisine heaven, a 72 virgins heaven, or any other similar sort of heaven, including a cricket heaven. Nothing of this kind - other than a straight shooting description of eternal celebrations for those who believed and loved the Lord Jesus and offered their lives to the Lord.
Full stop. No other sort of heaven!
As the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years moving sideways in November 2000 to Life After Cricket, one might imagination with such a pedigree that I for one might have some inside knowledge of such a mythical place as a cricket heaven. Alas, as a theologian of 38 years, I am unable to confirm, rather compel your disillusionment.
Yet, this is the place of popular myth where all former deceased great cricketers now reside. Perhaps I am the one called to bring you a reality check, that this is not so.
Nonetheless, Richie Benaud had an influence upon the game of cricket over 50 years and more than perhaps any other person in that sport, both in Australia, England and internationally.
This we can celebrate. Australians love their cricket and passionate about their cricketers.
His captaincy of the Australian cricket team was legend. He won back the Ashes. Then he took to writing and commentary and led a classic television commentary group: Bill Lawry, Ian Chappell and the late Tony Greig.
Richie Benuad understood the game. He read the game like no other. He propelled the game forward with his part in World Series Cricket. He was a man of humility and this was seen no more than when the bronzed statute of himself was unveiled at the SCG, a project of 10 such sports statutes sponsored by Mr Basil Sellers AM. Richie Benaud took it in his stride. He often puzzled over his celebrity.
But, with all this, and the celebration of a cricketer's life and times, along with a Cricket Hall of Fame, there is no such place as cricket heaven, rather as Solomon noted in the Ecclesiastics, there is a time to be born and a time to die.
The criteria to be a celebrity in heaven is not that of a top cricketer, or a top golfer, or a top tennis player, or a top rugger, or a leading corporate figure, or anything else really. Rather only one thing, repentance, a love for following Jesus and the way of the Cross, rejoicing in the resurrection! In this I rejoice!
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html