This past week, two icons of Christian spiritual formation entered into the cloud of witnesses. First came the passing of Eugene Peterson, the man behind “The Message” and many significant books on prayer and Protestant spiritual formation. Second came the death of Father Thomas Keating, an icon of spiritual formation from the Roman Catholic tradition whose work on Centering Prayer, spiritual formation and dialogue across spiritual traditions, was tremendous and will be greatly missed.
Both of these men represent a strain of our Christian faith that is at once, given the nod of approval but is then cast off as not relevant to the Church of our modern era. They weren’t mega-church pastors and they didn’t tout themselves as “all that and a bag of chips.” They didn’t have a staff and surely didn’t obsess over social media.
They sought to know God. Period. And from this place they were sought out and so they taught.
In their respective tribes of the Protestant Church and Roman Catholic Church, they were known by many. They were shown disdain by some. And to some of us, who have sought after God, believing in a holy universal Church, their experiences and teachings provided guidance on the narrow path as we listen to the still small voice.
I wish I could have known them but I suspect, having read both of their works, they would have reminded me it isn’t about us, it is about God. Knowing God and loving God and showing that same love by loving humanity, this is what matters. Though they didn’t pastor churches in the sense we understand it, both also remained part of that holy universal Church that is the Body of Christ. They didn’t separate themselves from the Church declaring there was a better way. It was The Way, the path of the Christ they walked.
Does their passing leave a void in the Church? Of course it does. But if each of us continue to listen to the still small voice and follow along that narrow path, we all have the potential, by God’s grace, to fill in such voids of teaching and guiding others. The question is, will you follow the hard path, even with fellow believers casting stones? Will you faithfully listen to the voice of God’s Spirit and the witnesses of the Faith? Their passing a renewal of the call to walk the narrow road of Jesus.