Farewell to Shadowlands

Farewell to Shadowlands -In Memory of the Rev Dr John Ferguson

 The short article below was written as a tribute to the late Rev John Ferguson, former Faith Mission ‘Pilgrim’ and minister at Cross Ness and Portree.  This was originally published  as a Reflections piece on this day in January 2009 in Fios the North Lewis newspaper.   This is reproduced now in fond memory of this dear man of God who is now with the Lord whom he served so faithfully.

The Best known and for many the best loved of all of the psalms of David is Psalm 23, sometimes known as the shepherd’s psalm. This is a Psalm which is sung regularly in many different contexts whether in Congregational and family worship, at services of baptism and marriage, funeral and memorial services as well as services of thanksgiving. But why is this Psalm so popular ? There may be several reasons, but in reading the psalm we see an ordinary flawed individual called David, a person who in many ways is just like us, speaking with extraordinary candour of the relationship he has with God. David the shepherd boy who becomes king, speaks with great assurance of the Lord as his shepherd , as the one who leads, feeds, guides and protects him in every situation. It becomes plain that he knows this shepherd well, and that the Shepherd also knows him. David turns to the shepherd, as the one who takes care of his every need , and it is because of that that he can say ‘ The Lord’s my shepherd I’ll not want’. In every stage and experience of life the Shepherd is there. Even at the end the Shepherd is there. He says in verse 4 ‘ Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil..’ Why ? ‘ For you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me’ .

‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.’

The certainty and inevitability of death is something none of us can escape from, but the assurance we have in God’s word is that because of Jesus Christ God’s Son , that death is not the end and we can have a hope of a better life to come through him. On Tuesday 6th January , many people in Ness were saddened to hear of the death of the Rev John Ferguson , formerly minister of the Church of Scotland congregation of Cross Ness. Mr Ferguson was greatly loved and respected as a powerfully anointed preacher and the spiritually insightful but also witty pastor of the flock here in Ness and later in Portree. Prior to his entering the ministry Mr Ferguson served with the faith mission where his preaching gift was greatly blessed by God. In his retirement he was seldom idle and preached the gospel of Christ with typical earnestness until illness came. In his passing we extend to Effie, and Iain, Gilleasbuig and Agnes , our deep and heartfelt condolences.

Our dear friend John faced death in the way in which he had embraced life, with an infectious joy in seeing this as a blessing from God. He longed for the fullness of God’s presence, more than this life itself. For John knew that this life was, as CS Lewis put it, merely ‘the Shadowlands’, a place where we can only glimpse life as it is meant to be. In God’s presence the shadows flee and are remembered no more. God’s presence is to the Psalmist more than compensation as he confesses ‘for you are with me’. To the follower of Jesus the promise is the same , that because He lives we will live with Him, and that because of Jesus , death itself is dead.

‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.’