The Overshadowed Preacher: Mary, the Spirit, and the Labor of Proclamation

Jerusha Matsen Neal
Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Co.
Published Year: 
Cover of Jerusha Neal's new book

Jerusha Matsen Neal, Ph.D., assistant professor of homiletics at Duke Divinity School, has written a new book on the presence of the living Christ in preaching, a mystery which she argues is potently described by Mary in conceiving, bearing, and naming of Jesus in Luke’s nativity.

The book, The Overshadowed Preacher: Mary, the Spirit, and the Labor of Proclamation, has been published by Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Co. The foreword was written by the Rev. Dr. Luke A. Powery, dean of Duke University Chapel and associate professor of homiletics at Duke Divinity.

In calling out the presence of the living Christ in the sermon as one of the most important, unexamined affirmations of preaching, Neal argues that Mary’s example calls preachers to leave behind the false shadows haunting Christian pulpits and be “overshadowed” by the Spirit of God.

The Overshadowed Preacher asks gospel proclaimers to own the limits and 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, Neal demonstrates. This affirmation honors the particularity of preachers in a globally diverse context—challenging a status quo that has historically privileged masculinity and whiteness. The book also offers the hope to ordinary souls who find themselves daunted by the impossibility of the preaching task because “Nothing, in the angel’s words, is impossible with God.”

An ordained American Baptist minister with broad ecumenical experience, Neal previously served as a Global Ministries missionary to the Fiji Islands through the United Methodist Church. Her scholarly work examines the action of the Spirit on the performative borders of body and culture. Her research interests focus on postcolonial preaching, preaching and gender, and the implications of Mariology for a Spirit-dependent homiletic.

Read a feature article on Professor Jerusha Neal.

See a video of Neal discussing "Why Preaching Matters."