Harrowing Of Hell
October 1, 2023

Finding God through our Questions: The Power of asking Where instead of Why

Lisa Ozaeta

To watch the sermon click here.

My name is Lisa Ozaeta and I am the Associate Rector here at Epiphany. At this point I think most of us have met. If not, please stop me and let’s meet and get to know each other.

One of my responsibilities here at Epiphany is to work with Children and Families. One of my goals is to help parents and caregivers have meaningful conversations with kids.

Raising kids is so busy. I have 4 of them. It is so easy for our interactions with our kids to be logistics related. What time is practice? Did you get your homework done? What do you want for lunch? Why is there a wet towel on the banister?

My two boys are both at college. One boy talks easily and feely. He loves to share ideas and ponder the deep things of the world together. My other boy doesn’t really offer anything of his own free will. He full of love and life, but he is not a talker. He will respond to any question, but meaningful conversations and connection with him requires asking the right questions.

One of the projects I undertook this summer was called the Epiphany Kid Question project. Each week in my newsletter, I would send out 2 questions to ask your kids. The goal was to create space to hear what was happening inside of our kids. We get so busy managing our kids that it is easy to forget to stop in wonderment at these little humans – and to be clear – little humans are all of our kids even if they are over six feet tall.

These questions were meant to help us stop for a minute and create real connection.

Some of the questions were things like:

  • What is your favorite thing about our family?
  • What do you think you will dream about tonight?
  • What do you think God says about you?

I asked these questions of my kids. I loved the conversations. What was so great about these types of interactions, was that I was not trying to get anything out of my kids. There was no right answer or a particular thing I wanted them to say. I was excited to hear what they would say as a way to get to know them more. For me, it was an exploration and celebration of who they are.

The questions we ask change everything. Questions are a door to transformation. For good or for bad, our questions shape our reality.

In our Old Testament reading, the Hebrew people are in the wilderness. They have escaped slavery. They have been feasting on manna. And now, they are once again struggling against Moses and are asking for water. Seems reasonable to want water. They ask Moses why he brought them out to the desert to kill them from thirst.

When they escaped the Egyptians and crossed over the Red Sea they celebrated They asked a very different question. They asked in a shout of praise – Who is like you O Lord? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?

God has not changed. But they have forgotten this praise. And even in the wilderness God has not changed. There is manna to eat and the water comes. But they ask, is the Lord among us or not?

In our New Testament story, the Pharisees ask Jesus a question about where he gets his authority. Jesus had been teaching in all of the synagogues with an authority that caught people’s attention. We usually hear this story interpreted as the Pharisees trying to trick or trap Jesus. However, we could assume that the Pharisees ask Jesus the question because they are trying to protect the faith. They knew that people were following this guy around. People were leaving their jobs and families. What if he were a heretic or didn’t have the right intentions? Is it possible that this question was less to trap Jesus and more to protect the people?

Whether it was from good intention or not, they as well as the Hebrew people are basically challenging God saying – What are you doing?

Sometimes asking Why God – What are you doing is almost a knee-jerk reaction. It might be the first question that comes to mind.

One of the Epiphany Kid Project questions was if you could ask one question of God, what would it be. The question that kids wanted to ask God the most was “Why do you let bad things happen?” This is a question that people have struggled with for centuries. It is the reason many give for being non-religious. They focus on the question, Why does God cause or allow suffering? They don’t have an answer to that question and as a result don’t want anything to do with that God. 

First, I would say that is the wrong question. But even knowing that it is the wrong question, we know the answer.  God does not cause suffering. Human choice does. It is humans using their free will that cause suffering. We talk about this a lot. Love requires freedom. God’s love wouldn’t be love if it was coercive. And because people have freedom and can make choices that hurt others, the planet, and themselves, we live in a world with a lot of hurt and suffering.

So, we can ask God why things happen – but this question is rarely satisfying.  Even if the answer of freedom is true (and I think that it is), it is not soothing or inspiring.

A better question is where can I see God in this. 

This – by the way, is everything. It is suffering and it is the mundane. It is when great things happen, and it is when in is just Monday. We need to ask where can I see God in this…every day.

The questions that we ask matter. They change everything. And asking where God can be seen in our day does change everything.

God is not a transcendent God removed from our daily lives. God is entangled in our world. We are surrounded by the divine every day.

In the same way that we can become so busy managing our kids that we do not take time to stop and submerge ourselves in the glorious exploration of their being. We can be so busy managing God that we do not allow ourselves the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the awe of living an entangled life.

You know what I mean. It is easy to step into the habit of our relationship with God centering on the list. Help Susie with surgery. Help Terry find a job. Give me more love for others. Bless our family, our home, our business.

Even gratitude can become a rote list. Thank you for this day. Thank for my family. Thank you for – fill in the blank.

I believe in praying for others and the importance of gratitude, but it can be a substitute for letting yourself slow down and ask God important questions.

There is an Ignatian exercise called the Examen.

This exercise is suggested to be done at lunch and at night before bed.  It is an ancient practice that can help us see God’s hand at work in our daily lives.

The examen starts by slowing down and becoming aware of God’s presence. One way to do this is to be in silence and listen to your breath. Then, we play back our day like a movie. Let it go forward frame by frame. See what is around you. Listen to the conversations. See the things that went unnoticed.  As you play this movie of your day, be full of gratitude. Say thank you for things that occurred in the day. Saint Ignatius invites us to find God in all things. That means that we have to pay careful attention to how the Spirit is moving in our daily lives. 

This is transformative.

It is the recognition that God’s presence can be found in every aspect of our existence, from the mundane to the extraordinary.

When we open our hearts and minds to the idea of finding God in all things, we begin to see the world through a different lens. We start to notice the beauty and wonder that surrounds us, even in the most ordinary moments. The sunrise becomes a reminder of God’s faithfulness, the laughter of a child a reflection of His joy, and the gentle breeze a whisper of His presence.

This shift in perspective can have a profound impact on our lives. It allows us to find meaning and purpose in every situation, even in the midst of challenges and difficulties. We begin to see that God is not just present in the moments of success and happiness, but also in times of pain and struggle. This realization brings comfort and hope, knowing that we are never alone.

Finding God in all things also invites us to cultivate a deeper sense of gratitude. We become more aware of the countless blessings that surround us each day, both big and small. We learn to appreciate the beauty of creation, the love of family and friends, and the opportunities for growth and learning. Gratitude becomes a way of life, transforming our attitude and outlook.

Moreover, finding God in all things calls us to a deeper level of trust and surrender. We learn to let go of our need for control and to place our lives in God’s hands. We recognize that He is the ultimate source of wisdom and guidance, and we trust that He is working all things together for our good. This trust allows us to navigate the uncertainties of life with confidence and peace.

Ultimately, finding God in all things leads to a profound transformation of our hearts and minds. It opens us up to a deeper relationship with God, where we can experience His love, grace, and mercy in a more profound way. It enables us to live with a sense of purpose and meaning, knowing that our lives are part of a greater story that God is writing that reveals his intricate connection to and presence in our lives.

Really perceiving and holding on to this intertwinement that God has in our lives is one of the greatest gifts in our Christian walk. We are able to grasp this gift by asking the right questions…Try a new practice this week and ask God each day, where were you in my life today. And remember that God is in All Things.