Episode #284

The Overshadowed Preacher

Guest: Jerusha Matsen Neal

Series: Crackers and Grape Juice

Host: Jason Micheli

November 6, 2020

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Our guest for episode #284 is Dr. Jerusha Matsen Neal, Professor of Homiletics at Duke. I had looked forward to talking with her. I left our conversation feeling grateful and delighted. I hope you enjoy it.

A graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, Dr. Neal shares connections and affinities with a number of friends from the podcast, including Beverly Gaventa, James Kay, and Karl Barth.

Her new book is The Overshadowed Preacher: Mary, the Spirit, and the Labor of Proclamation. It 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.


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