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1 Corinthians 1:18-25

1:18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,

but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1:19 For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,

and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart."

1:20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

1:21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom,

God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.

1:22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom,

1:23 but we proclaim Christ crucified,

a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,

1:24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks,

Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

1:25 For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom,

and God's weakness is stronger than human strength.


John 2:13-22

2:13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

2:14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables.

2:15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.

2:16 He told those who were selling the doves, "Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!"

2:17 His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for your house will consume me."

2:18 The Jews then said to him, "What sign can you show us for doing this?"

2:19 Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."

2:20 The Jews then said, "This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?"

2:21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body.

2:22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

To the Jews, the idea of a messiah who was killed by the Romans was a stumbling block indeed. The messiah should have freed them from the oppressor, not been defeated - tortured and killed - by them.


Paul is preaching in the heart and epicenter of Greek philosophy, in the Greek city of Corinth. Ancient Greece, the birthplace of our modern day logic and reason. The prevailing Greek scholarship were philosophical schools that separated body and soul, the body being base and of the earth, the soul being higher, above all of this. Moreover, the Greek and other gentile religions were polytheistic and based on gods who interacted with humans, but didn’t really care for them. So of course a God who came to live with us, to be one of us, and then died at the hands of the enemies of his people was folishness indeed.


Jews demand signs, Paul says - signs of the people restored to freedom, throwing off the shackles of the occupier.

And Greeks desire wisdom - a rational way of thinking, problem-solving, the beginning of modern science - the wisdom of man, smarter and smarter each generation.


But we proclaim Christ crucified. A God who dies in the most excruciating and humiliating way, naked in the dump, hung up in public as a warning sign, at the edge of the city. This is who and what we proclaim. A sign of shame, and not a rational path to peace or power.


This week I am thinking about Paul’s words in relation to us and an issue of our times. We are not under Roman rule, but we are facing a different world-changing reality: climate change. We’ve all begun to see the changes, in our own lives, with our own eyes. Some of us are more worried about it than others - each of us comes to this issue with our own life experiences, and passions — and other things tugging at our lives for our attention.


We see the changes here in Taos. For instance, what used to be a given - monsoon season, is now something we wonder about each summer. Afternoon rains are no longer like clockwork. Monsoons might start late or end early.


In 2022, the Hermit’s Peak and Calf Canyon fires were not only scary, but were part of a wildfire season in New Mexico that started earlier and grew stronger than in previous years.


If you are looking for signs, these seem dire. Sometimes hope in the face of such change can seem naive, like a stumbling block.


And yet, that same year, Taos had good climate news. In 2022 Kit Carson Electric Cooperative met its ambitious goal of 100% daytime power generated by solar in Taos. Proof that even as the climate changes, we humans do have some agency.


Common collective wisdom and modern science seemed to tell us that we couldn’t make the switch to clean energy, that it would be too difficult. And yet, it is happening. Solar is here, right here in our own town. It still seems hard to imagine us all driving electric cars, and there are certainly still challenges around that, but the best new cars coming from Ford and GM are electric, and car companies are decisively investing in that direction.


Our American culture’s common wisdom tells us that we need to find high-tech solutions like these to the threats of climate change. But these assumptions, too, are meeting stumbling blocks and contradictory signs.


We used to think that we needed to engineer the earth to produce food. We removed predators to our livestock. And yet, when wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone, the entire ecosystem benefitted - elk were culled and moved around, aspen and willow rebounded, beavers flourished, and wetlands and groundwater benefitted - the water that Wyoming livestock need.


European settlers brought techniques of monoculture farming - fields of one plant, that produced high yields more easily. Fields seem like the definition of farms to most of us. And yet we know now that Indigenous tribes in the Pacific Northwest cultivated forest orchards - planting and tending trees in the forest that were good for foraging. Biodiversity there and in other places was not just accidental, but advanced, intentional farming for centuries. It just looks different from what we know as farming.


When I was a kid, we tried to kill bees, afraid of their stings. I saw an internet meme that said something like, I used to shriek and slap at bees, now I see one and say “Oh, look at you! Are you OK, can I get you anything?” Now we plant milkweed and know that our food and environment depend on these pollinators.


Greeks sought rational wisdom and birthed the miracles of modern science, modern science which now helps us store energy from the sun. But that wisdom might see helping nature recover itself as foolishness. That western scientific wisdom didn’t see the older wisdom of the farmers who lived with the land, not on it, tending forest gardens. Here in Taos, we live right next door to the longest inhabited town in North America. The wisdom of living with the land is still alive - not ancient history.


Our notions of modern land ownership might lead us to think that giving land back to Indigenous people would be a foolish thing to do, yet we are seeing in many places the doing so is helping the land - letting the people who know it best tend it back to health - for all of us. One of the first land back movements in recent American history was here in Taos, too - the U.S. returning Blue Lake to the Taos Pueblo 50 years ago under President Nixon.


Here, too, we have the more recent but still ancient acequia system - a sharing of water benefiting the whole community and the land. The gravity fed system of division of water resources came with the Spanish in the 1600s who blended knowledge brought to Spain by North Africans with local North American indigenous practices. Small, local democracies around the water that is life - democracy that arrived before the American constitution.


I think of even small things, like double-hung windows we painted over in houses all over the U.S. in the 70s and 80s, as we enjoyed our heat and AC, that we chipped away at in recent years when power supplies were not as reliable or affordable, and we remembered how those old houses were built to circulate the air naturally. Here in Taos, the innovations of the earthships and other alternative building techniques in the 90s that remembered the principles of thick adobe walls and ventilated airflow, and taught them again.


In so many ways, climate change is showing that things we assume are not true, or idealistically foolish, are actually wisdom — Indigenous wisdom that persists, or ancient wisdom reclaimed, or the wisdom of nature that heals itself when freed to do so.


And when we look for signs, we see fire and drought, we see the consequences of some of our human technology. But we can miss the signs of change brought by that same science, new ingenious brains in labs and young engineers - signs of new ways of powering our lives.


So many small steps can add up and make a difference, still. Planting that milkweed, opening the windows, listening to the living wisdom of our Indigenous neighbors. And so can helping support bigger things: land back, green energy, protecting acequias.


Human science, as amazing as it is, is not as wise as nature. What seems like the foolishness of going back technologically can be going forward. What seems like a sign of fear, the wolf, is a sign of rivers flowing again. The bee is a life-sustainer, not a pest.


Jesus turned the tables on business as usual in his time and city. He foretold a rebuilding of the temple in a new way, as his body, like God and nature rebuilding with bone and flesh the wondrous man-made architectural wonder of Herod’s temple - something new and living out of the rubble.


We proclaim a death to what we think we know for sure, what we used to be sure about, and believe that resurrection comes from death. Wisdom from foolishness. Signs of nature as signs of life outlasting outdated signs of human progress. In this season of Lent, we remember that God’s wisdom is beyond our comprehension, and we practice the humility to learn new things.