On Friday evening Leeds Minster hosted Any Questions?, the weekly radio show chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby that is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. Perhaps you heard the broadcast on BBC Radio 4?
As I was sat listening to questions being asked and the debates that followed I reflected on some of the privileges we enjoy in this country that we too easily take for granted.
Simply to be able to ask questions of figures in public life without fear of reprisal is an amazing freedom that all too often, for all kinds of reasons and in all kinds of ways, is denied to most people in the world in which we live.
Only last week I was in a different country listening to the stories of people facing the double injustice of being denied fair and equal access to resources and education on the grounds of their religion, and then also feeling unable to protest for fear of further restrictions being imposed upon them.
Which is why I was there: to gain information so I can ask questions and raise objections on their behalf. I am under no illusion my asking questions will quickly solve the problems in that particular situation, but at least my friends can draw comfort and strength from knowing that they are not alone in their plight. Sometimes, love requires us to ask questions; and not just for our own sakes.
One of the joys of children is that they are always asking questions. Their curiosity knows no bounds! Sometimes it flows out of a deep fascination about how something works, sometimes they are desperate to know what will happen next, sometimes they need help to make sense of why things are as they are.
And I am sure all of us have experienced when a child keeps asking ‘Why?’ and the impatient panic that sets in as we realise that it has been going on so long and has become so focussed that we don’t actually know the answer to the question being asked of us.
I often think you can tell a lot about a person from the way they answer a question they don’t know the answer too; questions can be scary. Too often we respond by closing things down rather than admitting the limits of our knowledge and understanding and allowing our horizons to be stretched and challenged by mystery and what we do not know. I wonder what we are so afraid of?
For centuries people of faith have found that belief in God has provided space and a framework that enables them to ask questions of themselves, the world and even of God.
In fact, rather than silencing or squeezing out questions, faith can even provide a language to help us frame and express what we most want to ask.
Take the Psalms. These words of old, half song, half prayers, are riddled with unashamed questioning of God: ‘How long O Lord…?’, ‘When will you….?’, ‘If you are….then why….’.
They remind us that any kind of mature, confident relationship doesn’t just permit questions to be asked, it positively encourages them.
After all, questions are crucial for growth, for trust and for learning and development.
So I wonder what question you would most like to ask? And what questions might you ask in order to draw closer to others? And finally, what questions might others ask you to challenge you and help you to grow?
Any questions? Well we all have lots actually. And thank God that we are free to ask them!
The Reverend Canon Sam Corley The Rector of Leeds