No sermon, however homiletically artistic, is ever complete if considered solely as an individual effort by the preacher. It is the congregational context, as well as the sermonic content, that must be taken into account.

Immediately we are hard against an issue that is increasingly to the fore in wide areas of Protestantism: shall we revive liturgy in order to enrich worship? This is not the place to explore the ramifications of the debate. It is the place, however, to point out—and to protest against—a false antithesis. Granted that in evangelical Protestantism, particularly of the “free church” variety, the tendency has been to misconstrue and undervalue those forms of congregational prayer and praise which precede the sermon. In this distorted perspective we look upon these exercises and offerings as “preliminaries.” The word should be an offense to us. The abandonment of its absurdity cannot be too swift.

But now an opposite peril threatens. Protestants, we are told, have become a sermon-tasting breed who, whether fascinated by a pulpit star or bored by a hack, are strangers to the art, the beauty, the dignity, the sacramental mysticism, of “worship.” On the whole, those who exalt ritual denigrate preaching. Whether by accident or design, it is generally and obviously true that the heavily liturgical service is the service of the ten-to-twelve-minute sermon.

Again, the numerous facts and facets of the current discussion are beyond the range of our purpose. The extremists in both camps can ill afford to be unteachable. But again what one does deplore is the fallacy of thinking of the sermon as something apart from worship. It is implied—and occasionally declared—that in the liturgy ...

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