It is no secret that many workers in the fast food industry are not paid enough to support themselves and their families. A recent report found that 52% of front-line fast-food workers receive some form of public assistance, nearly twice the proportion of all workers who receive public assistance.
It is also no secret that the pulpit often has been a platform for prophetic voices, from John Chrysostom decrying excessive wealth in the Fourth Century to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., indicting segregation with the Word of God in the Twentieth Century. This year, Rev. Annie Edison-Albright of Redeemer Luther Church (ELCA) in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, brought her voice and faith to bear on the plight of workers struggling for a living wage. Her prophetic sermon was recognized by The Beatitudes Society, which awarded Rev. Edison-Albright its 2014 J. Philip Swander Brave Preacher Award!
Her poignant words call us to see our neighbors differently and to strive for justice in accordance with our baptismal vocation. You can read the full sermon here, but below are some selections.
Rev. Edison-Albright reminds us what is at stake when workers are mistreated or ridiculed for their efforts:
“What it comes down to is this: the person you degrade, and dehumanize, and call names … that person is Jesus. That person working at McDonald’s is Jesus. And she’s Jesus regardless of how smart she is, or what life choices she’s made. The stone the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. The person you reject is the cornerstone: an essential, important, beloved child of God.”
She declares to people of faith that our hope is well-founded and calls us to carry that hope into the world:
“When it comes to big issues like poverty, it’s easy to get cynical, to get angry and judgmental, to be apathetic and try to ignore it, to get overwhelmed and feel like there’s nothing we can do. But if Jesus Christ was born, lived, died and rose from the dead, then anything is possible. And we truly are empowered to be God’s hands and feet and voices in the world.”
Powerful words from a powerful preacher. Congratulations, Rev. Edison-Albright, and thank you!
Follow these links to learn more about the ELCA’s commitment to a living wage:
- Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton’s Letter to the US Senate (April 2014): http://download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/Federal_Minimum_Wage_Letter_To_US_Senate.pdf
- Fact Sheet on Raising the Minimum Wage: http://download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/Raising_the_Federal_Minimum_Wage.pdf
- Hunger, Poverty and the Minimum Wage (ELCA World Hunger blog post): http://www.elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAWorldHunger/624
- Social Statement on Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All (1999): http://download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/Economic_LifeSS.pdf