I have often said that you cannot write a job description for a pastor. In the seven years now that I have been in pastoral ministry, I have been with families as their loved ones passed from this world into the next, I have played games and made crafts with kids, I have stirred stew and rolled out dumplings, I have plunged toilets and painted walls, I have given medical advice and financial advice and marital advice, I have taken calls at all hours of the day and night, I have preached and taught and sat through meeting after endless meeting. When I started this was the kind of work I expected to do; I’ve been around pastors enough to know that you really have to do everything.
I never expected to be a beekeeper pastor, though.
If you follow my work at all you know that I’ve been keeping bees for the last few years. I write about them regularly and often share pictures of my hives. Currently I have a hive in my yard and one at Selah Community Garden. You may also know that I publicly advocate for saving bees. Every chance I get I teach others what I can about the need for bees and why human beings have got to stop using chemicals that are harmful to bees. Bee populations around the world are declining more and more rapidly, and we are just letting them.
Perhaps you’ve heard me say these things before, or you’ve read some of my previous posts on bees, or you’ve seen my pictures. If so, you probably think that beekeeping and saving the bees is a hobby of mine. But it’s not just a hobby. Keeping and protecting bees is a part of my ministry.
This is the ministry I never expected to have. From the outside looking in, even with a much clearer view than many, I always saw the work of pastors as spiritually focused. The highest goal for a minister is to prepare souls for Heaven, I thought, to guide Christians into developing disciplines of piety and goodness so that 1) more and more souls may be won to Christ and 2) we may all win the prize in the race Christ has set us to run. (1 Corinthians 9:24)
I wasn’t wrong, not 100%. I also wasn’t right, not 100%. Salvation and the cultivation of pious discipline is important. However, we are not supposed to spend our days preparing to live in Heaven after death. Rather, we are supposed to spend our days making this world we inhabit as like Heaven as we can. Jesus declared, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” which I take to mean it’s within our grasp, if only we’ll grasp for it. (Matthew 4:17)
Here’s what I’ve come to know: we need personal piety, and we need public piety. We need to discipline ourselves, to “cease to do evil, learn to do good,” but also, “seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:16-17) We cannot let ourselves continue in sin, nor can we let the sins of this world continue to harm others.
Which brings me back to the bees. In keeping bees I attend to the ordinances of God; I am mindful of the bees, who in turn make me mindful of their Creator. I see their work and their artistry and it directs me to my Heavenly Father. I understand that God placed Creation in our hands for safe keeping, and so I do my best to be a good steward of God’s trusting me with a hive of honeybees.
At the same time, I know what will happen if bees go extinct. Honeybees, bumble bees, and other pollinators affect 35% of global agricultural land and support the production of 87 of the leading food crops. It’s been said that 1/3 of the food you eat would cease to exist without honeybees. Can you imagine that? If 1/3 of the food in the world suddenly went extinct, what would happen to food prices? What would that kind of scarcity do to our economy? And just who do you think would be hurt the most by that sudden astronomical jump in food prices?
Of course, we’re already seeing this sort of thing happening. Already the healthiest, most natural foods are more expensive than their nutritionally empty counterparts. As of 2009, 2.3 million Americans lived in food deserts, without accessibility to healthy foods. Chinese apple farmers have resorted to pollinating their apple blossoms by hand. I can’t help but wonder how well those workers are being paid. As bees become more scarce, the healthy food they contribute to will become more and more the exclusive domain of the wealthy and powerful. That’s just not right. Everybody should have access to healthy food.
Saving the bees is a work of justice.
Bringing about God’s Kingdom here on earth is a global sized task, and it will take a global sized taskforce to bring it about. It will take all Christians, working in all areas. Some will minister to drug addicts and some will minister to grandmothers. Some will preach from pulpits and some will preach from street corners. Some will advocate with their government and some will be in the fields.
And some ministers will keep bees.
Saving bees is another step toward saving all our souls.