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Preaching in a Garage

This week a number of students of Vanderbilt Divinity School and members of the surrounding community will be performing “Blessed.” These are monologues inspired in the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus, featuring intersections between her life and the lives of contemporary women. The monologues were written by Jerusha Matsen Neal and published last year. One of the characters will be preaching in a garage. This is a woman, like many others among us, who feels called to preach but her denomination would not ordain her or let her preach. Yet, she decides to remain in her church and to live out her calling through preaching in her garage. This woman has decided to send a message even if the odds of it getting anywhere or making any impact are low or none.

The character of the monologue may be fictitious, but there are many real persons like her. One of those persons is the real woman/women who inspired the character. Another of those persons is Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. A nun living in “New Spain” (today, Mexico) in the 1600s, she was a scholar and a prolific writer. Sor Juana wrote the play The Divine Narcissus to be performed in Spain. There’s no evidence that it ever was (Peters and Domeier, 1998). It should not surprise us that it was not performed in Spain, when it was written by a colonized person, mixed, and it featured the Spain army as a zealous man, and the Catholic Church as her reasonable and compassionate wife. Both of them trying to teach the natives to stop worshiping the sun and worship God instead, changing their ways for the ways of Spain and the Catholic Church. Jesus Christ is Narcissus who falls in love with Human Nature, whom he sees in his reflection, and he dies for her. The play elevates the human dignity of indigenous and mixed people and calls attention to the damage that human beings do to the Earth. Sor Juana wrote her message through this play even when it had little odds of being performed in Spain or of reaching its intended audience.

Like Sor Juana, Leslie took her chances writing a song that had little odds to reach its intended audience. Leslie is a songwriter in Nashville, with whom I took a songwriting workshop recently and she shared with us about how she wrote a song for a famous singer. A friend asked her if she could write a song for any artist in the world, for whom would she write it. She answered that for her favorite singer and she went for it. She wrote the song thinking that the singer would never hear it. As it happened, not only did the singer hear about the song, he recorded it.

The woman in the garage, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, and Leslie took their chances. They crafted and sent a message against the odds of it getting to anyone. And their work has reached many people, touched many hearts, and hopefully made a difference. What are we waiting for? Let’s preach, even if we think that no one is listening!

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