A Lively Friend

With deep sadness we regret to announce that Alex Crawford, founder and secretary of the Mathew Hale Public Library, died on Saturday, 23 September.

Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”
“Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”
(Revelation 14:13)

I was texting a friend in response to the awful and sudden news on Saturday afternoon. I had meant to write in the text that Alex was such a lovely friend when instead the auto-correct supplied, “a lively friend”. For once, the auto-correct was correct. Alex was such a lively friend! Frequent laughter was matched by his bright eyes and warm smile. He was active in the law, in the life of his church and Diocese, and was the ever-constant driving force behind the Mathew Hale Public Library. Not least, he brought life and love to his wife Penny, and his children, James, Sally, and Emily. And together, Alex and his family radiated that same life and love to many others who were welcomed into their home. He was indeed a lively friend.

As we struggle to come to terms with his passing, we may find ourselves wrestling with why God would bring death in the face of such life. Alex’s work in MHPL was committed to advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ through biblical preaching and biblically shaped leadership in the Anglican Church of Southern Queensland and beyond. That work is needed now as much as ever before. When the gospel cause is under siege, why remove one of its most faithful, energetic, and effective advocates? When the world is so often bereft of joy, when so many look only to their own interests, when integrity has become negotiable and men of honour are few, what is there to be gained by taking Alex from us? Not for the first time, and not the last, I find myself asking again, what are you doing Lord? Why bring death in the face of such life?

Yet of course, the answer is that in the gospel of Christ God is doing the very opposite. The good news is, and continues to be, that God brings life in the face of death—resurrection life (John 11:25), life in all its fullness (John 10:10), eternal life (John 3:16), more life than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20) in the face of a death darker than we know (Revelation 20:14). God is doing today as he has been doing from the beginning: He is building his church (Matthew 16:18), he is drawing all things together under Christ (Ephesians 1:10), through all things he is conforming his people to the likeness of his Son (Romans 8:28-29), and he is convincing us again of his love for us in Christ from which even death is not able to separate us (Romans 8:39).

In the awful reality of Alex’s death very little of this seems to be true. Yet even apart from our present loss, so much of our present experience seems to speak of God’s absence rather than his presence. Which is why the world so desperately needs that gospel preaching that God gave Alex to work so tirelessly to promote. We ourselves so desperately need to be drawn again to the cross, interpreted by the scriptures, that we might see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). What we most need today is what the world most needs everyday—for faithful servants of God to preach Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23), and declare with boldness that Christ is risen (Matthew 28:6), and he is making all things new (Revelation 21:5).

Alex was such a wonderful gift to us from God, and as we contemplate the hole his absence leaves in our lives we suffer grief upon grief. We lament his loss, and cry to God for mercy and grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). We pray for time to grieve, and we ask for the presence of Christ that we might not grieve as others do who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

We are confident in Christ that our brother Alex, our dear and lively friend, is at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). He rests from his labours (Revelation 14:13), and what mighty labours he was given to undertake in service of the King. We recall his deeds not to magnify Alex, but to bear witness to Jesus, the saviour Alex trusted and loved.

The Mathew Hale Public Library is committed as much as ever to continue Alex’s work of promoting the gospel of Christ in the power of the Spirit for the transformation of the church and the glory of God in all the world. We do so in the great hope that death has been swallowed up in victory (1 Corinthians 15:54). “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:55).

Written by Graham Stanton