The reasons in favour of the reading include convention (it’s ‘cos we do!), declaration of the priority of the Word, trust in the public reading of the Word, etc.
The main reason against it, in my opinion, is that a story consists in the resolution of tension, so why give that away at the start? Even if people know the end, surely the re-presentation of the story is the place for the satisfaction of experiencing tension resolved?
When preaching narrative I tend to have a related reading to satisfy the hunger for a formal reading, but I prefer to keep this separate from the message. When the message begins, my goal is to win people to the text, rather than assuming they are ready for it and launching straight into the reading.
What do I mean by a related reading? It could be the preceding context in the flow of the book, perhaps ending with the introduction to the story. It could be a passage offering “informing theology” – a prior passage that in some way shaped the writer of the text. It could be a safe reading, such as a Psalm, that has more to do with the sung worship at that point in the service than in the message to follow.
I absolutely believe in the importance of the public reading of God’s Word. I’m not convinced we are obligated to the read our text then preach it though.
Tomorrow a related issue – should we tell the story, or should we just read it?