Pastor McCain has asked on his blog if we are not starving our people by shorter sermons. It is not a secret that preaching in the Lutheran Church has produced shorter sermons of late than in previous years. Is this a problem?
I think it CAN be a problem, but I don't think it NEED be a problem. I am a fan of concision in sermons. I do not think that if you can say something in ten words and get the message across, you should pad it out to a hundred words. I do not think that filling out a requisite 20 minutes or more will necessarily benefit the preaching of the Gospel.
I believe it was St. Augustine who made the observation: "If I had had more time, I would have written less." I think that is a good rule for sermon preparation. Take the time to review what is written and eliminate the excess pork. What I've found a good rule of thumb is if I go over the sermon in my mind and find there's a section I missed because I forgot it was there, that's usually the first section to eliminate. What hangs together in MY mind, I figure, stands a better chance of hanging together in MY PEOPLE'S minds.
My hero for concise sermonizing is St. Peter Chrysologus, fifth century bishop of Ravena. Let me tell you, HE knew how to pack some incredible punch into short sermons - I would think that by and large his sermons could not run more than 12-14 minutes. But what gold in those precious minutes! It is my hope, my prayer, my dream that one day I will be able to preach a sermon that comes close to what that great father routinely accomplished!