Dean Phillip Jensen’s sermon at the State Funeral for Slim Dusty
“On behalf of all who are gathered here at St Andrew’s Cathedral and on behalf of the hundreds of thousands listening to this broadcast or watching it on TV. In fact, as this is a State funeral on behalf of the entire nation I would like to express our sympathy to Joy, Anne, David and the whole of Slim’s family. You have shared your husband and father and grandfather with us these many years and we want you to know how much we appreciate having had Slim as part of our world as well as yours, how sorry we are for our loss and how sorry we are for yours.
Death is a dreadful thing for it robs us of our mates. Slim was not only the Father of the Year and the first Senior Citizen of the Year, an Officer of the Order of Australia, a Member of the British Empire, a winner of innumerable awards, Slim was for all of us that quintessential mate that is such a distinctively Australian virtue.
But there are two things that really destroy mateship, two things that are common to us all: sin and death. For we all do the wrong thing sometimes, even to our mates and that wrecks mateship. We all need forgiveness, sometimes the price is too great to pay. And we all have to face death - the death of our mates and our own death. Death robs us of our mates.
Now at this time we are walking in the shadow of death, as Psalm 23 calls it. We have lost our mate and it is a sad day for our whole nation.
Slim’s songs so often captured the sorrow of loneliness and death and the pleasure of mateship. Think of his two biggest hits - they’re both about mateship.
“I love to have a beer with Duncan
‘cause Duncan’s me mate”
And of course the biggest of all time is “A Pub With No Beer”
“There’s nothing so lonesome, morbid or drear
than to stand in the bar of a pub with no beer”
Friends I'm no drinking man and I'm no great singer, but I don’t think we can have Slim Dusty’s funeral without us singing just one verse. Come on - join me:
Oh it’s-a lonesome away from your kindred and all
By the camp-fire at night where the wild dingoes call
But there’s nothing so lonesome, morbid or drear
Than to stand in the bar of a pub with no beer.
Like Duncan, A Pub With No Beer is about mateship, the friendship of drinking together as equals contrasted with the misery of loneliness. The song is not about alcohol. There is still wine there for the wine buffs, but there is no beer - the ordinary blokes’ drink: - the stockman, the swaggie and the blacksmith.
The drink is symbolic of enjoying mateship at the end of our journey, at the end of the hard day’s work. In some ways Slim and Jesus were alike. Both were rural storytellers travelling from town to town, to little villages amongst the ordinary people of their day telling their stories, encountering life as it is - out amongst the people. Both were famous in their day. The first century Jewish historian Josephus wrote about Jesus and yet, like Slim, he remained a man of the ordinary people. Jesus didn't have a story of a pub without beer but he did once go to a wedding without wine. There, to the amazement of all, he saved the party by turning the water that was set aside for ceremonial washing into the finest quality wine.
That was Jesus’ first sign, showing his glory and greatness. But frankly it does not make much sense. What kind of greatness does it show? That he can do miracles? Is that all it shows? Did God become man in order to do party tricks, in order to show off his power? No! There is more to this sign than that. It’s about turning the water of religious ceremonial washing into the reality and joy of true cleansing and new life.
But we do not understand the first sign of his greatness until we see the last sign of his greatness, the one that Bill read to us from Matthew 26. There we read of another party - a once a year special roast lamb dinner that we read in verse number 27.
27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
This cup of wine does not symbolize fun and pleasure like at the wedding. This cup of red wine symbolized his blood - or better his bloodshed, his violent sacrificial death poured out for many. His blood, in which was written the new contract between God and man, the contract of forgiveness. Forgiveness because restitution for sin was paid in this blood, paid not by us but by the only man who could pay the price, the innocent man who was God. He did not want to ‘drink the cup of his father’s wrath’. He did not want to drink down to the bitter dregs of death. But he was willing to drink it for us that we may be forgiven.
“My Father” He prayed “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as you will”
So in a single action of his death he dealt with the two things that wreck mateship, both sin and death. Sin because his perfect sacrifice paid for our sin. And death because his death is not the end but the beginning. Three days later he rose to life again and was seen by many witnesses.
For notice what he promised in verse 29
29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
After his death has dealt with sin, after his resurrection when the new age of the Kingdom of God began, then he would drink again but then drinking would symbolise mateship, friendship in all its pleasure restored and permanent relationships. For sin is paid for and death is defeated. So it will be the time of party and fun of drinking anew with God in his kingdom.
Heaven is not a pub without beer. Hell is the pub with neither beer nor the mates to share it with. But for the party of heaven to be established, sin and death had to be dealt with which is what Jesus did in drinking the cup of God’s wrath for us.
King David: The Shepherd who became a King knew what it was like to go though the valley of the shadow of death. But he did not fear evil because the Lord was his shepherd.
We all walk this day through the valley of the shadow of death. Here we are today around the coffin of Australia’s mate, our mateship broken again by death. Here we are today reminded once again of our own death - that is coming to each one of us.
David knew that the Lord was his shepherd, the good shepherd - Jesus who laid down his life for his sheep. Is the Lord your shepherd? Can you say with David, The Lord is my shepherd? He is the shepherd - who loved his sheep enough to die for them. But the question remains, is he “my” shepherd?
One of Slim’s songs went
My clothes may be old and look ragged
As I lie ‘neath the stars by the bend
As I dream there is one consolation
I have a King for a friend
But He’s just the one who made the mountains
He’s just the one who lights the stars
He’s just the one who sends the sunshine
He’s just the one who made the flowers
He’s just the one who hangs the rainbows
He’s just the one who placed the pearls
He’s just the King of Kings in Heaven
He’s just the one who made the world
Oh I'm tired and I'm weary from roamin’
And this dusty road, it never seems to end
But I wouldn't want to go on living
If I didn't have a King for a friend
Is the Lord your shepherd? Is the King your friend?”