What does it mean to live in the light of this Gospel reading, and indeed to live a life that Jesus leads us to? How do we live as people who believe that the way of Jesus is the way to the Bread of Life? It takes us a little further than ‘Bread for Today’. It is more than the image we are offered in the reading from Kings, of Isaiah, in despair being fed by the angels. Paul gets us a little closer with his letter to the Ephesians which has echos of the great passage from Philippians on emptying oneself, the spiritual discipline known as ‘kenosis’. Leaving behind all that causes harm and taking on the discipline of being ‘Christ like’. Easy said, harder to achieve. Whoever in reality actually achieves such a state of being save a few Saints or Mystics? But that doesn’t mean that we should not begin. So where do we begin?
Perhaps we need to listen to the Bees. Just down the road from us in Fachwen lives Eric Maddern. An australian songwriter, poet and radical. He has built up an entire ‘eco-village’ offering retreats and courses amongst the trees. A few years ago now Eric encouraged us to listen to the Bees and hear their story. He took this tour of music and poetry around Wales and beyond. The message was that the bees were tired, working ever harder and in need of our help. And in 2007 the animation Bee Movie, that’s B E E by the way… suggested that our relationship with the bees was under threat. It is under even more threat from this autumn as neonicotinoid pesticides will be available once again in the UK. Bees, not only as the main pollinators, can help us in another way too. If we listen to them and reflect on their way of life – it is reminiscent of the life that Jesus leads us to.
But let’s being at the other end of the spectrum to see how far we have to travel. And perhaps, how far we have already journeyed. You might have noticed in the news this past week that Caerphilly council were courageous enough to refuse permission for a new open cast mine. Coal mining certainly had its day, but taking coal from the ground represents one of the most short sighted and short term investments one could ever make. The legacy left in its wake is one of deprivation to local communities and unrecoverable damage to the environment. Perhaps with this decision we are learning a little. Coal mining represents a ‘Take’ attitude, consumerism at its worst if you like. But let’s move on from this, for I think we as humans, have turned a corner towards living differently. With current climate change targets and talk of ‘sustainability’, which simply put is just a pair of balanced scales, we are being led towards living a neutral life. Living so that we take only that which we ‘need’ and leave resources intact for others to use. To stay with the energy analogy this might be reflected by the green technologies which are slowly becoming a regular sight around us. Or instead of coal, the burning of wood which comes from managed forests. Or you might want to reflect on an apple tree. We take the apples we need, but leave the rest for others and the tree for the next year. We are getting towards this way of thinking, but I’m not sure we are quite there yet.
But the bees and indeed the way of Jesus lead us still further. There is yet another way of bee-ing. The next time you see bees buzzing around a bush full of flowers, reflect on what they are doing. Each bee takes a little nectar and a little pollen. The nectar is returned to the hive, the pollen is taken to the next flower. Will it ever be possible, I wonder, for us to live in this way. For what the Bee does is to take a little for its own needs and at the same time through its actions, builds up the resources that are needed for tomorrow and for future generations. This is the Bread of Heaven that is the life for the world. A world in which, Jesus says, we will never hunger nor thirst. A way of living that is perfectly natural in harmony with the earth and with other humans. It will take those who have the vision of the bees to lead us towards this. Jesus had this vision, and slowly over two millennia we have been led towards it. We’ve often got it wrong, and like Isaiah believed that we do not have the energy to continue.
However, perhaps there is a chance for us to take the next steps reflecting on the path of Jesus and learning to live more like the bees.
With thanks to Akhandhadhi Das for the inspiration.