Many Protestant pastors feel an undue burden to preach a lengthy sermon that rehearses the "whole" Gospel - a call to hear the Word, an exposition of the law to convict of sin, an offer of the gospel and assurance, instruction about the way of sanctification, and a word of encouragement or commissioning. In short, they feel pressure to accomplish in the sermon what a liturgy is designed to accomplish. This is why so many sermons are not only unduly long, but so apparently contrived and redundant.
You see, if a pastor embraces and understands that the worship service itself - the liturgy is designed to recapitulate the Gospel, they won't feel the need to do that in every sermon. Think about it:
- If there is a robust call to worship in the liturgy, there doesn't have to be a fifteen minute introduction before the word is exposited.
- If there is confession of sin in the liturgy, there doesn't have to be a decisional emphasis to each message.
- If there is assurance of pardon there doesn't have to be an emotional appeal to justification behind every text.
- If there is weekly communion there doesn't have to be a strained effort to make people feel like they have communed with Jesus.
- If there is a benediction there doesn't have to be a massive call to action that makes people want to conquer the world.
If the liturgy is in place, the sermon can do what it should do - minister the word to those who have already been set apart by the Gospel. It doesn't have to be 45 minutes of everything for everyone from soup-to-nuts. In fact, it can be more powerful by being more targeted at its purpose - to tell the people of God who they are called to be in Jesus. It can even be short.
I don't understand why more pastors don't absolutely run to this view of the sermon. It takes the pressure off the cult of personality worship model, and allows the Gospel to ring forth in its fullness. It makes the sermon more meaningful - and prevents the temptation to eisogete. Even more - it gives pastors more time during the week to pastor instead of finely tuning a perfectly timed 15 minute introduction. Let's pray for the sermon to occupy its proper place in the context of the Gospel-shaped liturgy.