Jerusha Matsen Neal's The Overshadowed Preacher breaks open one of the most important, unexamined affirmations of preaching: the presence of the living Christ in the sermon.
Neal argues that Mary's conceiving, bearing, and naming of Jesus in Luke's nativity is a potent description of the mystery. 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. 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 the hope to ordinary souls who finds themselves daunted by the impossibility of the preaching task. Nothing, in the angel's words, is impossible with God.