Jeremy Bentham,one of the pioneers in the field of political economy, was a member of the Board of Directors of one of London’s great hospitals, and gave a vast amount of time and interest to it.
After his death in 1832, it was discovered that he had bequeathed his considerable fortune to the hospital.
He also stipulated that his skeleton, stripped of flesh and dressed in his well-worn business suit, should be mounted on a moveable platform and rolled up to the head of the director’s table, whenever the Board met.
To complete the display, a death mask – on top of which was his old hat – crowned his skeleton.
For more than one hundred years, the Secretary of the Board added this line to the minutes of every meeting, “Jeremy Bentham, present, but not voting”
Every Easter, there is a danger! We listen again to the Gospel narrative of Resurrection and – rightly – we wonder at the Miracle…. but so often many of us leave it at that, insofar as we don’t really see nor understand how it impacts on our life in a practical way.
“Christ present, but not voting”? Not challenging, guiding, revealing, directing us here and now.
Paul in his Letter to the Colossians takes us away, as it were, from that outlook: the one that almost turns Ester into a tale of nostalgic magic and tells us of new life – that we are raised to new life BECAUSE of Easter (see especially Colossians 3 verse 1b: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above” – he is bringing Easter into the context of our own daily life!)
Easter gives us a new insight into ourselves, what we are, and what we can become.
(two weeks before this sermon was preached) There was a documentary broadcast on Channel 4. It was entitled “Who killed Fletcher Christian” He, of course, was the leader of the mutineers on the ship, “The Bounty” in 1789.
The programme re-told the story of the mutineers and their Tahitian friends who fled to the South Pacific Island of Pitcairn, following the mutiny..
It was a dark tale of murder,promiscuity, drunkenness and despair. The nine mutineers who fled to Pitcairn Island (those who stayed on in Tahiti were captured and hanged) grabbed most of the twelve Polynesian women for themselves, and turned their six menfolk into virtual slaves.
Some time after this, with the help of the women, the surviving Englishmen killed the remaining Polynesians and shared ten women between them.
Of the men who had arrived on the Island three years before, only four were now left.
In the end,only John Adams remained to preside over the women and their 20 or more children.
Jesus said, “I am with you always”, although there’s been many a time we feel that he may be present, “but not voting”
But the spirit of Christ WAS there in benighted Pitcairn, in that Paradise Lost, where all seemed doomed……
…. for John Adams rediscovered the “Bounty’s” Bible and, although only semi-literate, began to teach from it – and was able to accomplish the Island’s conversion to Christianity.
The Prayer of John Adams
Suffer me not, O Lord, to waiste this day in sin and folly
But let me worship Thee with much delight;
Teach me to know more of Thee
And to serve Thee better than ever I have done before,
That I may fitter to dwell in heaven
Where Thy worship and service are everlasting.
Written on Pitcarn Island for the Lord’s Day morning.
Redemption came to Pitcairn because of the Risen Christ who can and does make us look at ourselves afresh and at those around us too.
We are raised above the selfish and self-centred and guides us into discipleship and service. Jesus Christ came into this world for all; and he died for all.
When the conflict in Sarajevo was raging in the mid-nineties, a reporter saw a little girl shot by a sniper.
He threw down his pad and pencil and rushed to the man who was holding the child and helped both of them into his car.
The man holding the bleeding child said “Hurry, my friend, my child is still breathing!”
Then… “Hurry, my friend, my child is still warm!”
then…. “my child is getting cold”
and when they got to the hospital, the child was dead.
Later, the man said to the reporter, “This is a terrible task for me. I must go and tell her father that his daughter is dead. He will be heartbroken”
Amazed, the reporter said, “But I thought that she was your child”
“No”, replied the man, “but aren’t they all our children”
I don’t know what religion that man had – but, in him, Christ was present and voting!
Because of Easter, we work to defend the dignity and worth of all persons, because God has guaranteed our own worth.
In his scheme of things, there is room for all, because Christ came for all. Christ is present, and he votes for life in all its fullness – for everyone!
Easter calls us to a glory-filled life. We are asked to seek “those things that are above”
It’s not pie in the sky – it’s here; it’s now; it’s for all of us!
(if you wish, you can still see what’s left of Jeremy Bentham, sitting upright, at University College, London. It’s a pretty grisly and somewhat unappetizing sight.
And he’s as dead as dead can be – present, yes, but not voting.)
Today we celebrate Christ present forever; alive forever and voting for a better, deeper, broader, higher and wider life for us all.
This is the beginning of a new day and a new life for all God’s people… for those who have gone before us, and for those who come after us, all united in Christ, the first born of creation.
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above” here and now!