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Hold Firmly

Brothers and sisters, I want to call to your attention to the good news that I preached to you, which you also received and in which you stand. You are being saved through it if you hold on to the message I preached to you, unless somehow you believed it for nothing. I passed on to you as most important what I also received: Christ died for our sins in line with the scriptures, he was buried, and he rose on the third day in line with the scriptures. He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve, and then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at once-most of them are still alive to this day, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me, as if I were born at the wrong time. I'm the least important of the apostles. I don't deserve to be called an apostle, because I harassed God's church. I am what I am by God's grace, and God's grace hasn't been for nothing. In fact, I have worked harder than all the others-that is, it wasn't me but the grace of God that is with me. So then, whether you heard the message from me or them, this is what we preach and this is what you have believed. -1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (CEB)

And so what do you suppose most people who drive by Aldersgate on Sunday morning see, a lot more cars here than they would on other days of the week, I think… What do they think about us, what do they think about us who call ourselves Christians? What assumptions do they have about who we are and what we believe? The world is at least as we hear reports, see fewer people are here on Sunday mornings, and that's not just because of covid,

over the past couple of years in studies they've done when people check a religious affiliation box on a survey more and more people are checking the box, none and one that they don't have any religious affiliation.

And that's a growing segment of our population, but specifically about Christians, what is it that they think... Well, I'm gonna speculate and say that I think for some of them, they would say, Oh, those are a group of people that enjoy getting together, one another, they have something that they like about their worship and in some way, whatever it is they're doing makes them feel better and gives them some encouragement and motivation to get through week to week in life. That's a fairly cynical view. There are some that would maybe even be more cynical than that, that would be in that vein of skeptic, they would say, well, and they believe in some fiction that's been made up about some guy that died and supposedly died for them. But all of that's just a story, and yet, there are so many different ways that people do choose to express their faith, even among Christians, we have many things that we agree upon, but a lot of differences between denominations and even in here... If we really got down to the nuts and bolts of things, there would be some things that we might say, Well, I kind of think this, or I kind of think this, and sometimes those things are splitting hairs and aren't the heart of the matter, but there has to be a heart of the matter, there has to be something in each of our lives that was compelling enough at some point to get us to say, Yes, this does matter.

And this is going to be something that is going to be a part of my life. It's not something we fabricated, it's not something we've made up, it's something that touched us and moved us in such a profound way that it has altered our lives, that we structure a week around being here to honor and glorify God, that we structure our daily life around finding time to sit down and pray to God or reflect on scripture, do those things that are consistent with building up and reinforcing who we are as Christians. Now, some of us maybe go through seasons where we forget, where we maybe lose sight of what it was that was so compelling, so moving that it's like we're going through the motions.

But it doesn't change the reality of that truth, and sometimes we need to be drawn back to it and be reminded. Paul was dealing with a community of believers who were dealing with all sorts of stuff… Corinth was not an easy place to be a Christian. There was a lot of pressure on them, the society around them had a lot of different gods and a lot of different less than positive behaviors going on that we're pulling on people's time and attention, and this community of faith had heard this word of God, but they needed to be reminded of it. Paul recognizes that one of the challenges that this community was facing was this idea of Jesus who had died and rose again, and whether it wa