I await Jesus, the nonviolently subversive One

Approx. read time: 3:15 min

Ridgeline trail in morning fog

The thin yet beckoning morning light through fog reminds me of the Light which will overcome all the forces of darkness, as the Evangelist John insists. Photo: Ridgeline Trail, Mary Sharon Moore, 2022.


The prophetic and divinely subversive season of Advent slips in, I notice, while shoppers’ attention is fixed on nabbing a parking spot, a deal, and the dream of abundant merch on every shelf.

A prophetic season, I say, because we can’t say we didn’t get the warning: The reign of God will find its way, no matter how much we ignore it or resist it.

A divinely subversive season, I say, because the reign of God doesn’t come in a blaze of wrath, but in a nonviolent interruption of the status-quo dynamic that defines how life gets lived and justice gets done.

The reign of God comes in a child born here, a Sabbath healing done there, forgiveness generously spoken, the dead restored to life.

So I’m sitting in bed on this unrushed and rainy morning, thinking about Advent, for which I seem completely unprepared.

Last night, in my final prayer, I commended to the Lord’s tender care Brother Vladimir, as I often do, that the Lord might catch him up into his arms, as a parent might do, calm his tortured and feverish soul, and restore him to his senses.

It wouldn’t be the first time the Master has done this.

“I have complete confidence in the power that flows from your resurrection,” I hear myself pray—partly because it’s true, and partly because I need to speak clearly my expectation, my expectant hope, which seems so right in this season of pregnancy of things divine.

I pray words that I could not come up with on my own. They are a gift, and not given in vain. Words that seem given to me as a pledge of their fulfillment.

I pray some more: “If you, risen Christ, could change the heart of the thunderous Saul, then you can do this mighty work again—a total conversion of heart of a thunderous man today.” 

Since I am speaking boldly, I add: “I have complete confidence in you.”

I get into bed, turn out the light, and imagine, as I drift toward sleep, the power that flows from Jesus’ resurrection: everywhere, at all times, penetrating into the most needful places.

How right, I think, that the subject of my Advent prayer is the power that flows from the resurrection of the One whom I await in the waning winter light.

Brother Vladimir undergoing a Saul-like conversion would be a powerful and far reaching disruption of the deadly dynamics of “power over”—of total domination, chaos, destruction, and death.

Jesus’ life, capped in his resurrection from the dead, was just such a disruptor, as was the conversion of Saul into the man of God Paul.

Francis of Assisi, Dorothy Day, too, underwent conversion of heart, lifestyle, and understanding of mission in life. As have countless others.

This great subversive nonviolent disruption holds power to break today’s well-funded, too-big-to-break cycles of violence, not with greater violence, but with an utterly disarming resistance to the forces of total domination, chaos, destruction, and death.

“You have heard it said,” Jesus speaks repeatedly in his Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5-7), “but I say to you …”

Pay fierce attention now to what the Teacher says.

Nonviolent subversive language, all of it. Don’t overthrow anything, he seems to say. Step aside and live in God’s good ways.

My work is not to find a parking spot, a deal, and loads of merch on every shelf, but to stay awake, to pay fierce attention to the elements of life that are not of the reign of God, that are unjust and death-dealing, and to resist their grip on my life, as I am able, nonviolently, and in love. 

This Advent I await Jesus, born in a barn, who stood against Empire, paid the price, and rose from the dead.

He shows us how it’s done. Now it’s my turn. Now it’s our turn.

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Be well. Live in peace. Love one another.

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