I think the greatest event in modern athletics at the upper levels of competition is the relay events; 4X100 and 4X400 in particular. Over the years, I have competed in the teams, coached the teams and now in my 'has been' years, watched various teams attempt the most exhilarating team sports that there is. The good news is I currently have 5 grand children and I am hanging out for one of them to come home from school and tell me they are competing in a relay team because I may get to coach a relay team one more time. You see one of the sweetest manoeuvres there is in sport is the baton change. Within seconds on the clock and just a few metres on the track, the timing has to be right and the baton change has to be made; what one athlete has received is now passed on to another. Yes, its the sweetest of athletic manoeuvres. And in the whole event, its what makes or breaks the outcome; It's of first importance.
There can be many things that occupy our time, focus, attention and desires and the apostle Paul understands this as he continues to write to the church in Corinth. For the most part he is answering the questions they have asked him in the letter they sent but he is also speaking into some of the disturbing things he has heard about them by those who delivered the letter. I think the passage we have read today from 1 Cor 15 is addressing one of those disturbing bits of news; a concern that Paul has, that the Corinthian church are confusing the 'gospel' with the different things that might come as response to the gospel, or challenge us as a consequence of the gospel. He wants them to be very clear about what is "of first importance" (vs 3), very clear about the baton change. This 'gospel' is the gospel that he preached to them, and which they 'received' and on which the people of Corinth have taken their stand in the community in Corinth. This is the gospel that saved them and the gospel that must be passed on to others.
So Paul reminds them what this gospel is; that Christ died for our sins, that he was buried and then was raised, and that he has appeared to many people. Thats the good-news. Its the good news about Jesus the Christ, Jesus the King. Paul is telling the church in Corinth to focus on the 'main game' - to hold tight, take their stand and proclaim clearly and boldly that God has done something significant for the redemption of his creation. Tell the story of Jesus! Don't focus on yourself, or on others; focus on the story of King Jesus. Focus on his life, his ministry, his love, his relationships, his death, his resurrection and the fact that many people witnessed his bodily resurrection. Late in Paul's life and witness on this earth, he writes to young Timothy (2 Tim 3:8) and he offers him something that resets the clock on life, purpose, meaning and real love; "Remember King Jesus, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel for which I am suffering..." In what way is the good news of King Jesus, 'of first importance' for you, and how might you make this gospel 'of first importance' for others in your life and community today.