Tokyo Drips With Sweet Honey

I’m fascinated with honey bees. I’m thrilled by the recent rise in urban beekeeping and glad to see that Washington, D.C’s, local beekeeping laws are finally becoming more amenable to this venerable tradition.

One of the earliest extensive treatises on beekeeping was written by Virgil in 29 BC (Virgil’s Georgic IV):

Of air-born honey, gift of heaven, I now
Take up the tale….
The others shine forth and flash with lightning-gleam,
Their backs all blazoned with bright drops of gold
Symmetric: this the likelier breed; from these,
When heaven brings round the season, thou shalt strain
Sweet honey, nor yet so sweet as passing clear,
And mellowing on the tongue the wine-god’s fire.

And the bee as Christian symbol was well-known in Europe. The honey bee has historically been a symbol of Christ’s attributes due to its honey and sting. The honey symbolizes gentleness and charity, and sting symbolizes justice and the cross. Bees are also a symbol of the resurrection. The three winter months when bees hibernate reminds Christians of the three days Christ spent in the tomb before rising.

The organization of life in the bees community, with perfectly delineated relationships and its dependence upon and service to the queen bee, also came to reflect an ideal of Christian virtues. Additionally, bees and beehives symbolize eloquence, and are represented with the three known holy orators called doctores melliflui (scholars sweet as honey): St. Ambrosius, St. Bernard of Clariveaux, and St. John Chrysostom. (See more on ancient Christian symbols.)

There’s also St. Gobnait of County Cork in Ireland who is the patron saint of bees. There’s even a contemporary Christian mission group in Uganda called Beekeepers for Christ.

Now, beekeeping is also taking wing in urban Japan! Here’s an excerpt from a recent article:

Eleven stories above the heart of the Tokyo concrete jungle — with its beehive office partitions and swarms of suit-clad worker-bees — enthusiasts have stacked up beehives dripping with golden honey.

“Let’s enjoy the harvest, but be careful you don’t have an accident,” urban beekeeper-in-chief Kazuo Takayasu tells his fellow volunteers from behind the protective fine-mesh net covering his face.

Clad in white body suits, the crew gets to work, squeezing out the glistening syrup using a simple centrifugal machine they crank by hand as a cloud of bees breaks free from the honeycombs. …

The honey is largely organic, he said, because pesticide use has been banned in Tokyo city parks and gardens including the Imperial Palace, about one mile away, where the bees collect much of their nectar. …

Read Beekeepers Add Buzz To Japan Urban Jungle.

Australia: What Does Resurrection Look Like Down Under?

I was glad to see the blog post by Australian Christian Jarrod McKenna with a video of four Christian peace activists who entered Swan Island, one of Australia’s most secret military installations near Queenscliff, Victoria, in March seeking to disrupt the supply chain for the war in Afghanistan. “Both Swan Island and the war on Afghanistan are out of sight, out of mind. It’s time to end further suffering of the Afghan people and our soldiers by bringing our troops home,” the group said.

Said McKenna, “The kairos moment during Holy Week is a moving meditation on a man who taught and lived the nonviolence of the cross in ways that socially witnessed to resurrection. This is made all the more potent for those of us in Australia given the courageous actions of The Bonhoeffer Peace Collective who yesterday with a fierce nonviolent love exposed further connections of the Australian government with the war in Afghanistan.”

Watch the video:

Bonhoeffer 4 Trailer from julian masters on Vimeo.

Rev. Simon Moyle (Baptist Minister), Jacob Bolton (Community Worker), Jessica Morrison (University Lecturer) and Simon Reeves (Social Worker) have called themselves the Bonhoeffer Peace Collective after Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s favorite theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was also an antiwar activist.

Christian Disestablishmentarianism

resurrection

As we move toward Easter, I find it helpful to recall the cosmic anarchy that the resurrection represents. Jesus was blowing apart all systems of domination that deform the basic dignity of the human being — including the threat of death.

When Christians are threatened with death, they understand it as being “threatened with resurrection,” as poet Julia Esquivel put it.

Here’s an excerpt from U.K.-based Jonathan Bartley’s commentary on Easter and Anarchy from Ekklesia:

Easter means freedom rather than control. At least that was the way that it started out.

Some early Christians seem to have celebrated it twice. There was the Passover that took on new meaning for the new Jewish sect following Jesus’ celebration of it with his friends just before his crucifixion. There was also Pascha a commemoration more in tune with the Easter we celebrate today.

But it was anarchic in the political sense too. The Passover called to mind the subversion by the Children of Israel, who defied Pharaoh’s authority and went their own way. Down the centuries Christians have developed various theological motifs to explain what they believe happened when Jesus died. But for the early Christians, the emphasis seems to have been squarely on the Resurrection. This was the moment of liberation at which God demonstrated victory over all evil and oppression – including the empire that put Jesus to death. It was the proof that even the greatest of powers could be overcome.

Easter was also the time when baptisms would happen – that Christians too were ‘raised with Christ’. It was the clearest symbol that the allegiance of early Christians did not lie with the state. This was the point at which a new citizenship of God’s Kingdom was embraced, one which challenged all other forms of citizenship, and most notably that of Rome. It committed them to a set of values and behaviours, and a way of living which was often at odds with the social and political norms of the Empire. Christians called it ‘the Way.’

But in the Fourth century, this presented a problem for the emperor Constantine who was intent on marrying Christianity with the power that had often been its persecutor. The death of Christ was a bit embarrassing. And it wasn’t just that the emperor was running the empire which had put the founder of the faith to death. The way of Christ – loving enemies, forgiving and turning the other check – was particularly ill suited to the business of Government. Baptism threatened allegiance to a state that needed to wage war, imprison and torture.

Bartley, Ekklesia co-director,  is author of Faith and Politics After Christendom: The church as a movement for anarchy (Paternoster, 2006) and The Subversive Manifesto: Lifting the lid on God’s political agenda (BRF, 2005). Read the whole piece here.

How would you write your baptismal vows if you knew they threatened allegiance to the State?