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The Overshadowed Preacher
Mary, the Spirit, and the Labor of Proclamation
Jerusha Matsen Neal
Foreword by Luke A. Powery

HARDCOVER; Published: 10/8/2020
ISBN: 978-0-8028-7653-9
Price: $ 36.99
267 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6 x 9
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The Overshadowed Preacher breaks open one of the most important, unexamined affirmations of preaching: the presence of the living Christ in the sermon. 

Jerusha Matsen Neal argues that Mary’s conceiving, bearing, and naming of Jesus in Luke’s nativity account is a potent description of this mystery. Mary’s example calls preachers to leave behind the false shadows haunting Christian pulpits and be “overshadowed” by the Spirit of God. 

Neal asks gospel proclaimers to own both the limits and the promise of their humanness as God’s Spirit-filled servants rather than disappear behind a “pulpit prince” ideal. It is a preacher’s fully embodied witness, lived out through Spirit-filled acts of hospitality, dependence, and discernment, that bears the marks of a fully embodied Christ. This affirmation honors the particularity of preachers in a globally diverse context—challenging a status quo that has historically privileged masculinity and whiteness. It also offers hope to ordinary souls who find themselves daunted by the impossibility of the preaching task. Nothing, in the angel’s words, is impossible with God.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Luke A. Powery
1. Uneasy Borders, Tricky Definitions
2. Dangerous Deliveries: The Queen of Heaven and the Pulpit Prince
3. Starting with the Body—the Resurrected Body
4. The Spirit-Filled Handmaid
5. Fully Human Preaching
6. Conceiving: The Labor of Hospitality
7. Bearing: The Labor of Dependence
8. Naming: The Labor of Discernment
Epilogue: The Overshadowed Preacher

Jesus Creed Book Award in The Preaching Life (2020)
“This is a literary invocation for the Spirit to breathe on and overshadow you that you and your preaching might be born again.”
— Luke A. Powery
from the foreword
The Overshadowed Preacher is no manual for ‘success’ in the pulpit. To the contrary, Jerusha Neal offers up a rich study for the imperfect, the vulnerable, the marginalized—in other words, for those whose preaching is overtaken by the Spirit of the Risen Christ.”
— Beverly Roberts Gaventa
Baylor University
“Jerusha Matsen Neal peels back the curtain on common assumptions about preaching and the body in this probing text. She offers fresh conceptions of embodiment, language, and performance and guides us to a more vibrant understanding of divine presence. Lively. Illuminating. Essential.”
— Donyelle McCray
Yale Divinity School
“Jerusha Matsen Neal’s The Overshadowed Preacher is a brilliantly conceived, expertly researched book that challenges centuries-old rhetorical, incarnational, and cultural-ecclesial practice assumptions that homiletic theorists have used as measures for defining the best practices of effective preaching. But preaching the Word of God, as Neal rightly argues, is ‘a messy, bodily business’ yielding ‘no easy answers or catchall formulas for the preacher.’ At a time when listeners have grown weary of muscular preaching empty of the Spirit’s power, Neal urges preachers to embrace in their labor of message bearing—as did Mary—a Jesus who stands outside of human control, absent from human performances even as he is present through them. This book does not disappoint; it is literally a life-giving gift for preachers and scholars who dare to confront their false shadows and courageously proclaim the good news of a risen and reigning Christ in an ‘anti-body’ world.”
— Kenyatta R. Gilbert
Howard University School of Divinity
“On our streets, young prophets who cry, ‘Black lives matter!’ are calling us to visions of freedom and justice that begin with the body. Jerusha Matsen Neal asks a related question: How would one teach preaching or preach in a way that starts with the body? The first step, she says, is to be overshadowed—but not by the false shadows of this world. The labor of preaching is to step out in freedom and be overshadowed by the Spirit. Neal draws on the image of Mary’s pregnancy to offer us new metaphors for preaching, and the Word we bear. Rich in wisdom, enlivened by stories of real preachers from all parts of the globe, this book is a feast for body and soul, and a long-awaited challenge—a beautiful disruption—to the field of homiletics.”
— Anna Carter Florence
Columbia Theological Seminary
“Jerusha Matsen Neal invites her readers to wrestle with her toward a fresh theology of preaching that arises at the ‘uneasy borders’ where the restless, world-overturning Spirit, the vulnerable body of the preacher, and the vulnerable bodies of listeners engage. All parties to this engagement are at risk; it is no easy matter to give birth to God-breathed proclamation and practices audacious enough to challenge the choking tentacles of racism, sexism, and economic apartheid that stifle life both inside and outside our churches. Neal reconceives the body/Spirit labor of preaching through fleshy metaphors of conceiving, bearing, and naming, putting preachers on notice that preaching is neither easy nor safe. Yielding the vulnerable, speaking body to the untamable Spirit produces a Word pressing for birth—risky labor indeed.”
— Sally A. Brown
Princeton Theological Seminary
“Neal’s thesis gives contemporary homiletical discourse much to consider, and readers will certainly find in its pages the resources needed if they wish to pursue further the various emphases and areas that the book seeks to integrate.”