Prophetically Provocative: Jesus as Mime, Mirror, and Muse

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Our 21st Annual Prophetic Voices Lecture

Rev. Nancy S. Taylor
Senior Minister Emeritus of Old South Church in Boston

Date: April 3, 2024
Time: 5:30 - 7pm
Location: Simboli Hall 100

RSVP Requested

While Jesus’ message struggles to find purchase in an increasingly secularized and pluralistic world, the first century followers of Jesus were captivated by him. He engaged them viscerally. He compelled their allegiance and upended their lives. Informed by the briefest and most cryptic of the four Gospels, we are invited to dig down, below centuries of ecclesiastical sediment, to encounter Jesus much as did his earliest followers: as a mime, as a mirror, and as a muse. The lecture explores the ways Jesus alters our vision and invites our participation, less by what he says, than by what he does, where he goes, and with whom he interacts. Mark’s Gospel vividly renders the experiential immediacy of the Jesus who turned heads, transformed lives, by whom time is divided, and whose movements reveal the Divine Heart.

headshot of Rev. Nancy S. Taylor

Nancy S. Taylor is Senior Minister Emeritus of Old South Church in Boston where she served as the Senior Minister & CEO from 2005 until her retirement in 2022. Ordained in the United Church of Christ, Taylor served churches large and small, urban and rural, across more than forty years. She holds degrees from Yale Divinity School (M. Div.) and Chicago Theological Seminary (D. Min.). Awards and honors include: Yale Divinity School’s Distinction in Congregational Ministry; Hewlett Packard Award for Human Rights; Rabbi Murray L. Rothman Award for Fostering Interreligious Understanding; National Center for Race Amity Medal of Honor; Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry Award; Emma Willard School’s Distinguished Alumni Award; three honorary degrees. Taylor serves as an independent trustee of Impax Funds; on Yale Divinity School’s Advisory Council and co-chair of the capital campaign; the advisory boards of the Miller Center for Interreligious Leadership (Hebrew College) and the Boisi Center for Religion in American Public Life (Boston College). Taylor is a co-founder of the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial Park and the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights Education, Boise, Idaho.

Alanez, Tonya. “The Rev. Nancy Taylor of Old South Church: Her Last Sermon.” The Boston Globe., May 22, 2022. 

Best, Ernest. Following Jesus: Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1981.

Bond, Helen K. The First Biography of Jesus: Genre and Meaning in Mark's Gospel. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2020.

Green, Joel B. The Way of the Cross: Following Jesus in the Gospel of Mark. Nashville, TN: Discipleship Resources, 1991.

Kinukawa, Hisako. Women and Jesus in Mark : A Japanese Feminist Perspective. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1994.

Maloney, Elliott C. Jesus' Urgent Message for Today: The Kingdom of God in Mark's Gospel. New York: Continuum, 2004.


In the America Magazine article, “A Big Heart Open to God,” Antonio Spadaro, S.J., shares a series of three interviews with Pope Francis. In the conversation, Pope Francis discusses his understanding of who Jesus was based on his actions and sayings in the Gospels. Pope Francis focuses especially on Jesus’ familiarity with sinners, noting that he too, even as the Pope, is a sinner. Who is more known for looking upon and choosing to be among sinners than Jesus? In her Prophetic Voices lecture, Rev. Nancy Taylor will also explore the various facets of Jesus’ identity and its relevance for today’s church and society. 

Rev. Nancy Taylor speaking at the podium

Rev. Nancy Taylor delivering her Prophetic Voices lecture from the podium.

Rev. Nancy Taylor speaking at the podium

Photo Credits: Christopher Soldt, MTS

On April 3rd, Rev. Nancy S. Taylor, Senior Minister Emeritus of Old South Church in Boston, offered a lecture entitled, “Prophetically Provocative: Jesus as Mime, Mirror, and Muse,” for our 21st Annual Prophetic Voices Lecture. She discussed approaching Jesus from three different hermeneutics: mime, mirror, and muse, and she offered rich practical applications for each area.

Taylor began with exploring Jesus as a mime, describing how “Jesus’ gestures are more important than his words.” In her practical application, she discussed providing food to impoverished people and the importance of accompaniment. When discussing Jesus as a mirror, Taylor noted profoundly that, “While looking at Jesus, we see ourselves more clearly.” Here, she presented another practical application related to loving one’s neighbor as oneself, particularly in controversial environments where doing so may seem difficult and unexpected. Taylor ended by describing Jesus as a muse, noting that “the beauty Jesus inspires is more than skin- or canvas-deep.” Her practical application was Old South Church’s “Ashes-to-Go” program, wherein ministers distributed ashes to any interested passers-by on Ash Wednesday. While some critiqued the program as a fast and cheap enactment of Ash Wednesday, Taylor emphasized the rich, moving, and meaningful interactions she was able to have with those who stopped by to participate. 

Taylor’s presentation evoked many questions as the audience began to reflect on the different images for envisioning Jesus in their lives today. Taylor concluded with remarks about how recognizing Jesus as mime, mirror, and muse is at work, particularly in the margins, and how it can offer new and inspiring visions of inclusion, unity, and love in the world.