The Returning Master, by Christine Hides
“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. Luke 12:35–38
Reflection:“Parables are a gift given to us before we are born…but they can be tricky to enter” we often say.
Stories, objects, and history are all things that we inherit that we steward for the future. This parable is part of our inheritance, the first of a cluster of three parables leading up to a well-known verse, “to whom much has been given, much will be required.” Tending to the oil and wick of the lamp and waiting up for the master to return from the party link preparedness to stewardship. Justo González points out that we are stewards of the “in between” times before Jesus’ return. “We are living in expectation of a future, and must therefore manage our resources according to that future, rather than to the present situation.”
The parables message of stewardship is embedded within a story of slavery, a complicated metaphor for our present time. Some scholars avoid trying to extract a meaningful message from a text that could be used to justify violent and oppressive systems. They refuse to normalize the harsh punishments of slavery or soften the language by substituting “servant.”
At home, at work, in schools, and even in church, we struggle when our inherited history, stories, and material possessions reveal injustice. We are keenly aware that our knowledge may come from a limited historical viewpoint; our daily bread through sometimes created by unfair labor practices; our inheritance bolstered by decades-old red-lining; our sacred texts misinterpreted to harm.
Remnants of injustice linger in these in-between times, tucked away in attics and legal code, mingled with treasures. In the present we sift through the mounds of what has been passed on to us, filling metaphorical boxes labeled “RECYCLE,” “DONATE,” and “TRASH.” We steward the “KEEP” pile, lamps lit, ready for God’s future when oppression and injustice will no longer exist.
Keep us alert, O Lord, for the future you are creating. Amen.