Sacramental Presence: An Embodied Theology of Preaching

by Ruthanna B. Hooke

Ruthanna B. Hooke is one of the most insightful thinkers in the field of preaching today. With a firm grasp of theology, history, liturgy, homiletics, and scripture, she shines a bright light on preaching as a deeply human act gathered into the intimacy of the fullness of God. She guides us toward the kind of proclamation most needed in our time and in every time, preaching that is “loving, courageous, honest, open, and powerful.” This is a wonderful book, a book to ponder and to savor.

-Thomas G. Long
Bandy Professor Emeritus of Preaching, Candler School of Theology at Emory University

Purchase here:

About the Book

Drawing on performance studies and sacramental and liturgical theology, Ruthanna B. Hooke develops a theology of proclamation grounded in the body’s experience of preaching. The author explores the claim that preaching is a sacramental event of communion with the triune God by comparing the steps involved in voice production with the fourfold shape of the Eucharist. This comparison yields a description of preaching as an event of self-offering that allows space for the humanity of the preacher and as an encounter with the Holy Spirit that is communal and prophetic. Preaching draws participants into Christ’s dying and rising, and hence into a mode of power known in vulnerability. Calling hearers into the eschatological event of the resurrection, preaching inherently moves toward proclamation on political and ethical issues. Hooke uses this theological framework to offer ways of preaching on environmental crisis and on racism. The author calls preachers to embodied engagement with preaching and describes a way for preachers to bear witness to Jesus Christ not only in the content of their proclamation, but in their way of being in the preaching event.


Ruthanna Hooke has long been a singular scholar on preaching and the body and this outstanding text reveals why her voice is so vital. She brings four streams together: the voice of the theologian, the voice of the homiletician, the voice of the priest, and that of the voice teacher. Together they yield a liturgical theology of preaching that puts a bright spotlight on the role of the body. Anyone thirsting for a study of preaching that takes liturgy seriously will have that thirst quenched in this exceptional book.

— Donyelle C. McCray, Yale Divinity School

Ruthanna Hooke invites homiletic theory more deeply into the mysteries of word and sacrament and does so by means of our humanity and our very bodies. In her insightful work, word and sacrament are not matters of mere signs; but instead implicate the splanchna, the very human viscera in which the Triune God encounters us in the means of grace. Thanks to Hooke, neither homiletical theology nor the practice of preaching will ever be the same again.

— David Schnasa Jacobsen, Boston University School of Theology

Sacramental Presence is one of the most thoughtful books I know on embodiment in preaching; it is also one of the richest engagements with systematic theology in recent homiletical literature. But the real wonder of this book comes as these virtues converge in theological reflection on lived, bodily experience for the sake of preaching. This book has already renewed my own preaching and changed the ways I try to teach preaching to others.

— Ted A. Smith, Emory University

This is a remarkably original and timely book about the embodied nature of preaching, encapsulating not only a theory about preaching’s sacramental meaning, but also about its participatory and inner-trinitarian significance. Ruthanna Hooke writes in a limpid prose which is as accessible as it is profound. Whether you are a would-be preacher or an experienced one, this is a book that will decisively change your perspective on what it is to attempt to hear, and then proclaim, God’s word: with mind, affect, voice and embodied gesture.

— Sarah Coakley, FBA (Cambridge and St Andrews Universities)

Publication Details 

Lexington Books
(May 24, 2023)
238 pages
ISBN-13: ‎

About the Author

Ruthanna B. Hooke, who joined the VTS faculty in 2003, is Professor of Homiletics and Program Director of “Deep Calls to Deep,” a Lilly Endowment-funded program to nurture working preachers.  Her most recent publication, Sacramental Presence:  An Embodied Theology of Preaching (Lexington Books, 2023), draws on performance theory, and on liturgical and sacramental theology, to develop a theology of proclamation rooted in the body’s experience of preaching

Share this book on social media!

Faculty Scholarship at VTS

Virginia Theological Seminary is the flagship seminary of the Episcopal Church. Founded in 1823, VTS faculty prepare leaders from around the world for both ordained and lay service in the Church. Our faculty are a diverse community of scholars who are committed to excellence in teaching and research. Through publications, public speaking, and travel, faculty engage with the wider Church and world, while shaping the next generation of leaders.

steeple view of campus