In Memory of a Great Man: Mark Ashton
This past Saturday (3 April 2010) a friend of mine, Mark Ashton, vicar of St Andrew’s the Great Church, Cambridge, went at last to be with his Lord and Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. I appreciate this sounds too much like a cliche but it is the rock solid basis of Christian hope. For those of you who also knew Mark, and knew him far, far better than I, you will know that Mark was no cliche and his confidence in the full gospel of Christ was no commitment to a superficial cliche.
I first met Mark around 25 years ago. Tremendously insightful, strongly opinionated, not a little intimidating but consistently encouraging and caring to me (and others). Several years later, we worked together at a preaching conference in the States and I remember how careful, gracious and patient he was with American Episcopalians (not known for either an interest or skill in expository preaching). He was inspiring and encouraging to the Americans.
Throughout the years I had occasional contact with Mark, including a visit he made to the theological college in the States where I taught and was vice-principal. Some of my colleagues there also knew Mark and highly valued his ministry.
It was in 2005, when we finally returned to the UK after our time in the States, when I saw best Mark’s huge gifts. We met in Cambridge for a Chinese meal lunch. I had some personal issues and questions to discuss with Mark. Once again, he was patient, caring and insightful. He didn’t need to meet with me; he had far more important things to do; but he did so nonetheless. Both then and now I am thankful.
But intriguingly Mark has done one last thing for me (and, assuredly, for thousands of people who knew him at StAG). His death in Christ on Holy Saturday speaks huge volumes of the hope and promise given to all who trust and believe in Jesus. Mark’s death is a “life well lived”. He died well in that he pointed all of us to Christ.