My church is considering keeping bees. Several dozen parishioners of all ages gathered last Friday night to watch a movie about bees, and later this week there will be a follow-up meeting where those who are interested will learn more and begin to discern whether some in our parish, either collectively or individually, have a call to beekeeping.
I am intrigued. I have been hearing for several years about “colony collapse” and the attendant warning that as the bees go, so will go humans. Without bees to pollinate many fruits and vegetables, our food sources will be greatly compromised. The direst warnings predict that our food will be reduced by 30–40%, bad news for a planet with a burgeoning population and other threats to agriculture such as water shortages and climate changes.
After seeing the movie, I did a quick search of various translations of the Bible, looking first for the word “bee” and then for the word “honey.” The particular concordances I used turned up “bee” in only one place. The word “honey,” however, abounded, appearing fifty-some times. The surprising difference in the frequency with which those two words are used in our scriptures makes me wonder: Are bees yet another creature in our universe whose gifts to us humans we take for granted?
Certainly I often forget to consider the energy, the labor, or the good will, let alone the cost behind many things I rely upon—or merely enjoy. How easy to assume certain gifts, in this case not only honey and wax but also the pollination of fruits and other plants, without giving much thought to the source, in this case Apis melifera, the bee itself. Except that now that the health of bees is imperiled, with grave implications for our own well-being, we seem to be waking up to yet another sign that we have not been good stewards of this earth.
As citizens of our planet, twenty-first century human beings still have much to learn about the interdependence of God’s creatures. The bees are but one example. Now that my church has begun looking at the possibility of a beekeeping ministry, we parishioners have much to learn about what might be involved in that specific sphere.
I do not know where this will lead, but I do know that because of thinking about bees, my prayer this week includes renewed awe at the complexity and interconnections of the world. It also includes my confession that I am often not a very mindful steward of the many resources at my disposal. It embraces the hope that I can yet live in ways that enrich the earth rather than deplete it. And it includes gratitude for all God’s creatures.
Especially the bees. For the sweetness they provide. For their fragrant wax that lets us make candles to light our way. And for their work of bearing life-renewing pollen from blossom to blossom. May I too be such a faithful servant.