Ash Wednesday 2022
Ash Wednesday 2022

Ash Wednesday 2022

It feels gloomy, despite the approaching spring. No matter who you talk to, there is always this uncertain something in the room, a latent restlessness, as if we had just discovered a sleeping monster that might just be waking up. Yesterday we were still firmly convinced that monsters didn’t exist at all, because after all, such things only live in old stories, not in our modern world. For many, wearing masks, travel restrictions and similar troubles have been among the greatest possible dramas of our everyday life. Although, just to say it between us, we actually could have known for a long time that something was coming that would probably be a four-digit factor worse than the recent pandemic. But for that you would have had to look at your own nose, and unless you were in Sweden, it was permanently hidden behind a mask. Besides, this whole climate thing was going on way too slow anyway, nothing really happened here, how are you ever supposed to understand that? And anyway, warm summers are actually not that bad. And I love my cars as well. Especially vacations. Let alone meat.

And then something like that comes around the corner. While the climate catastrophe still seems a long way off, it turns out that not only have we irritated the climate with our sloppy gas consumption, we’ve also fattened a sleeping monster that’s now waking up. For a long time it looked like a cute Kremlin, but now it shakes and quivers and we immediately see: This is a real cold-blooded animal. It’s a killer.

Were we perhaps the ones who slept way too long?

How many times have we heard Christians pray for “awakening“? How many times have we heard prophecies that “awakening will come”? For my part, I can only say: very often. Too often. Because I filled the word “awakening” with charismatic campaigns where thousands would get on their knees before a stirring evangelist, and I knew that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. At least not in Europe. What I didn’t know was that, for a change, God lets a little devil and not an evangelist ring out as an alarm clock to wake us from a comfortable slumber.

Once awake, everyone can decide whether to pull the blankets over their ears again or to wake up properly, giving it a go after a good breakfast to tackle the day with wits and drive. A good load of cold water over the head usually helps enormously: The cold shower of penance – however, that’s nothing for wimps, indeed. It takes courage to wash the sin of sluggishness away from our eyes, out of our sight, out of our mind.

How would it be, one might ask, if not just individuals, but many of us, perhaps thousands, would get on our knees and pray like Daniel, the end-time prophet of the Old Testament, who not only prayed individually for himself, but who prayed in plural form and asked for forgiveness for all his people? Because God is a God of mercy, grace, love and kindness, he would surely turn the tide of history once again and put a stop to all monsters. Imagine if today was more than just “Day 1 without chocolate”. But something more like: “Day 1: Turn off the gas tap so the rest won’t blow up as well.”

That would be something. That would truly be an Ash Wednesday.

Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant.

For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 

Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name.

We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 

Lord, listen!

Lord, forgive!

Lord, hear and act!

For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.

Daniel 9:17-19