Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Even the Stones Will Shout: A Memorial for John Stott
By Brian Nixon
Special to ASSIST News Service
LONDON, UK (ANS) -- It's always hard to say goodbye to a friend. Whether for a short time or a longer period—say a lifetime, goodbye is difficult to say.
But for many, and John Stott in particular, their lives still speak even after their passing.
Case in point: on January 13, 2012, a Memorial and Thanksgiving service was held at the imposing St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, UK, honoring the life, message, and witness of Uncle John—as many around the world called him.
A press release sent to the ASSIST News Service by John Stott Ministries states, “The majestic stone columns and arches of St. Paul’s Cathedral glowed in the honeyed light of the winter sunshine, while Christopher Wren’s great dome resounded to the music of organ, orchestra, choir and two thousand voices giving glory to God in thanksgiving for the life and ministry of Rev Dr John R. W. Stott (1921 – 2011).”
The service drew people from the corners of the UK and many parts of the world.
The press release continues by saying, “Tributes began with Frances Whitehead, John Stott’s secretary for 55 years, who was converted to Christ through his preaching and thanked God for his life - marked to its very end by faith, hope and love, along with grace and truth.
“Stott’s global influenced was recognized in tributes brought from Asia, Africa and Latin America by, respectively, Archbishop John Chew (Singapore), Bishop Robert Aboagye-Mensah (Ghana), and Ruth Padilla DeBorst (Costa Rica).
“All spoke of the influence in their continents of his life and friendship, as well as his teaching. Ruth Padilla DeBorst stressed how Stott had listened so deeply to his friends and allowed the realities of poverty and injustice in Latin America to stretch, challenge and inform his own worldview and his understanding of the scope of gospel mission.
“In his sermon, Timothy Dudley-Smith, one of Stott’s oldest friends since their student days at Cambridge, preached from Revelation 17:14, where those who are with Jesus are described as ‘Called, chosen and faithful’ – words that he illustrated from Stott’s life, while challenging all present to answer the question that Stott himself would ask, ‘How is it between you and Jesus?’ He recalled John’s sermon at the re-opening of All Souls church in which he had said he ‘dreamed’, among other things, of a serving church that would be salt and light in society.”
And what of Stott’s vision for the world and his ministry after his passing?
According to the press release, this theme was discussed by Mark Greene and Chris Wright, “who presented the ongoing vision that is embodied in the two organizations that they lead and which, at Stott’s request, will benefit jointly from The John Stott Memorial Fund – respectively, the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity and the Langham Partnership International.
“Greene pointed to Stott’s passion that lay Christians should be the agents of the gospel’s transforming power in the frontlines of their places of work, but lamented that this part of Stott’s vision had not been truly grasped or implemented in whole-life disciple-making. As a result, even though there are more Christians in the City of London than in the tents outside the Cathedral, the salt had not been doing its job. Wright pointed to Stott’s complementary passion that, for Christians to be such transformative salt and light in the world, they need the nourishment of applied Bible preaching by pastors who are committed and trained to provide it.”
Prayers of thanksgiving led by Bishop Michael Baughen and Judge David Turner concluded the memorial. Closing prayers were led by John Sentamu, the Ugandan-born Archbishop of York, and Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, and the blessing was pronounced by Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury.
In an odd way, the passing of John Stott reminds me of the incident with Jesus when the Pharisees called to Him to silence the witness of His disciples. Jesus replied, “If they keep quiet the stones will cry out.”
The Stott press release continues, “A gravestone of rough-hewn Welsh slate now marks the spot in the tiny village cemetery of Dale, Pembrokeshire, Wales, where John Stott’s ashes lie buried. Like the man himself – slender, upright, rooted in the earth but pointing to the heavens – it is inscribed with his own words:
Buried here are the ashes of John R. W. Stott …
Note: I finally got to meet my hero in 2006. He was speaking at Mariner’s Church in Orange County, California on behalf of the John Stott Foundation. I went to listen and speak with him. It was blessing! To my surprise, the picture of us made it around the world on several websites- Christianity Today- among them.
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