(Jesus said) “Be dressed and ready, and keep your lamps lit. Be like the household staff awaiting the owner’s return from a wedding, so that when the owner arrives and knocks, you’ll open the door without delay. It will go well with those staff members whom the owner finds wide awake upon returning. I tell you the absolute truth, the owner will put on an apron, seat them at table and proceed to wait on them. Should the owner happen to come at midnight, or before sunrise, and find them prepared, it will go well with them.”
Luke 12:35-38 (Matthew 24:42, Mark 13:33-37)
The plot of this parable rides on a crisis: the homeowner has been delayed from returning from a wedding feast. Albeit, it’s not a major crisis by today’s standard, yet the servants are still up in arms. Will we be awake when the owner returns to let him in the house? An urgent question in the days before locks and keys. So joyful is the homeowner on finding the staff on duty that the owner refigures the power structure and serves the staff at meal.
In the context of Luke the parable is a warning to followers of Jesus to be prepared for the end times. However, if we remove this Lukan layer of end-time context we are left with a parable that speaks of the crisis of delay, the decision to be prepared, and the reward for proper preparation.
Equality has long been delayed for sexual minorities. This delay tries and tests our best patients. Each gain, while rightfully celebrated, seems to come at an achingly slow speed. How long will justice tarry? How long are we willing to anxiously watch the door for its arrival?
The urgency of the crisis is heightened by the actions of the doorkeeper. Will we be at our post ready to open the door “without delay?” When equality arrives will it find me prepared to grant it entrance, or will it find me unprepared and attributing further to its delay?
The reward – a refiguring of the power structure – provides an amazing conclusion to this parable. In the original Greek the relationship between “homeowner” and “staff” is in reality a relationship between “master” and “slave.” The reconstituted relationship flips the roles between these two individuals. Taking the untitled picture above as our guide the master of the house dons the dog collar and chain while the house slave stands above and over him as the one excerting power - that is "calling the shots" - of the relationship.
I cannot help but think of the insights gained from those who practice kink – especially the master/daddy-slave/boy relationship. Though not a kink practitioner myself, I understand that as played out in the world of kink it is the “slave” who chooses the “master,” just as in our parable the owner chooses who his master will be.
In this simple refiguring of power-in-relationship we find that power-over has been reconfigured to power-with. By choosing her or his master the slave/submissive/boy is placing trust in the master/active/daddy to guide them through a kink session where power and being dominated become a place of safety and self-exploration.
The homeowner chooses the doorkeeper as master because the doorkeeper has already earned trust by not abandoning the post even though the hour was late and no one expected the doorkeeper to hang around.
We now circle back to the thorny issue of our preparedness as doorkeepers for equality. Will it find us prepared, and in being prepared, trust us to be its master? Or will it find us slackened in our watch, causing it further delay, and move past us?
This choice is ours. Not the government’s. Not the church’s. Not society’s. Ours.