Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Mighty One Has Fallen

The Rev Mark Ashton died this past Saturday, firm in the resurrection hope of Easter and with assurance in the Cross of Christ from Good Friday. I did not know Mark well, but wish to pay tribute to a man who had an influence on me through his preaching, steady witness and vitality as a Christian man and minister of the Gospel. Mark ministered for many years at the Round Church in Cambridge, which grew and moved to the larger building of St Andrew the Great (then planted another congregation back to the Round Church!).

Mark was diagnosed with cancer about a year ago, and did his dying well. He was firm in faith, longing for heaven but not unaware of how his death affected others (in his family and his congregation).

He wrote in his church's magazine:

I have realised what a very great privilege it is to know that I do not have much longer to live (unless the doctors are completely wrong!). We, all of us, have an invisible sell-by date stamped on us, and I guess we would all live slightly different lives if we knew what that date was. I am convinced that I am fortunate to know that I need to get myself ready for departure.

I think there are three things that means for me particularly: (1) I need to fight sin more fiercely; (2) I need to tell others about Jesus more clearly; (3) I need to look to Jesus more and more with every new day.

Knowing that it will not be all that long before I am removed forever from the presence of sin means that I should tolerate it less and less in my life now. It has no place in the presence of God and I need to prepare myself for that.

In an update on his health in March, Mark wrote the following (which, although not published like the magazine article, has had wide viewing, and so I trust is for public encouragement):

There is a lovely song, which will I hope be sung at my thanksgiving service, a modern version of nineteenth century lyrics, which went like this:

It is not death to die, to leave this weary road
And join the saints who dwell on high
Who’ve found their home with God.
It is not death to close the eyes long dimmed by tears,
And wait in joy before your throne delivered from our fears.

But the real comfort we have in death as Christian believers is not joining the other saints in heaven above rejoicing in the presence of God but in the final vindication of His glorious purposes for us. So the glory is all His.

Here is a link to Mark speaking to members of his church about dying. He has no fear, but only consolation and even excitement as he approached his death.

Well done good and faithful servant. If you are a praying person, please do pray for Mark's widow, Fiona, and their family, as well as the people of St. Andrew the Great in Cambridge.