I once heard a philosopher say that questions are far more interesting than answers. It was an unusual remark that challenged me to reflect that I had spent much of my life seeking for answers and far less time thinking about crafting the right questions; questions that would open up new ways of looking at the world, questions that would challenge me and the way I was choosing to live; questions that would open up new avenues to explore.
During the season of Lent, church leaders from our county set off on a walking pilgrimage, visiting each Mission Community in the area. A Mission Community is an ecumenical group of churches within a specified area, who have agreed to work together to encourage and support the growth of local disciples, and be outward looking, seeking to serve and bless the communities in which they are located.
Bishop James, Bishop Emma and Sarah Moore (Leader of the United Reformed Church in Cumbria) visited our Parish and took part in an event on the 3rd April at Cleator Moor Methodist Church, entitled ‘Q & A’ Questions and Afters. They were asked questions about their life and faith and vision by folks across the churches in our Mission Community. Some of the most searching questions came from the children in our schools.
Year 2 children asked: How did God make the world? Why did Jesus die on a cross and did Jesus come back to life?
Year 3 and 4 children asked: Who created God and how? Why do we have a God? Why does war happen?
Year 5 children asked: If God was not here what would happen?
Year 6 children asked: Why did God give us illness and the ability to die?
I found it so encouraging that the children in our schools are thinking deeply about a whole range of significant issues such as: Who is God? What is God like? Does faith in God affect the way we live our lives and relate to each other?
It seems to me that as we grow older, we lose our ability to question. Questions and the uncertainty that accompanies them can make us feel uncomfortable and unsure. We want to be able to offer answers and solutions. But what if answers aren’t the answer?
The poet Rainer Maria Rilke ( 1875–1926) once wrote about the importance of questions in a letter to a young protégé :
“I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
Throughout his time on earth, Jesus preferred asking questions than giving answers; 135 questions to be exact! And the answers he provided often required the questioners to do some further work. Jesus was the master story teller and he much preferred this medium than proffering neat, cut and dried answers. Like Father, like Son! In the first book in the Bible, we find God asking us questions; questions that are as timely and relevant today as they were when they were first written down;
Where are you? Where is your brother/ sister? Later in the Bible, Jesus asks those who were his closest friends: What are you looking for? What do you desire? Who do you say I am?
What would it look like if you were to live into these questions? What might you discover about God, yourself and your neighbour?