[Friday in the Second Week of Lent] Turning the World Upside Down: Seeing the Face of God in the Worker

Read: 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.




As we come to grips with the manifold issues of a consumerist society, it is tempting to be overly selfconscious and even smugly “guilty” in pondering our role in perpetuating what may appear to be a completely broken system. So again, the author Joerg Rieger suggests that “a deep logic of the Judeo-Christian traditions is anchored in such passages as 1 Corinthians.

Rieger writes in his book, No Rising Tide: Theology, Economics, and the Future:

The ancient confession that Jesus Christ is both fully divine and fully human, which unites most Christian denominations, adds another wrinkle to this logic that is hardly considered by most contemporary Christians. In Jesus Christ, Godself not only takes the side of construction workers, but becomes a construction worker; this is the reality to which the often mystified term kenosis (God’s self-emptying in the incarnation) refers…Christ became flesh in a particular body, in a particular place and time, and in a particular social location…

Mainline Christian theology has had a hard time admitting to the particularity of the person of Jesus throughout its two-thousand year history…[B]oth Jesus’ humanity and his divinity were asserted in general terms, without reference to the kind of person Jesus was. The result of this oversight was not the affirmation of generic humanity, as is often believed; the result was the affirmation of dominant humanity at the time and of dominant humanity ever since…

For Christianity, it is the incarnation of God in the construction worker Jesus Christ, born in a stable rather than a palace, in the company of service workers who tended other people’s sheep (Luke 2:1-20), which turns things upside down. The typical religiosity which goes from the greatest to the least comes to a halt here and is turned around.


Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(The Book of Common Prayer, p. 823)


Joe Burnett served as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska and as an assistant bishop in the Diocese  of Maryland.