I forgot a little something from my childhood and then remembered it today with a huge smile. It’s a book. You see, I usually tell folks my four favorite works of fiction are as follows:
The Lord of the Rings-Because I love the epic nobility and sacrifice of the tale and the incredible depth of Tolkien’s world.
The Once and Future King-Because T.H. White was a genius and his understanding of politics, people and history, beautifully rendered in this classic Arthurian cycle taught me to think and observe at an early age.
Watership Down-Because I inherently understood the politics and epic scope of the story, even if it was about bunnies! This may have influenced my leadership style more than any book I’ve ever read, and made me understand the difference between liberty and totalitarianism before I was even in Junior High School. Thank you, Richard Adams.
A Wrinkle in Time-I learned so much from different books, but Madeleine L’engle taught me to love to read. Also, her near-perfect blend of smart science fiction, fantasy and Christianity probably affected my path more than I can imagine.
Those have been my favorite books. But I remembered something today. When I was about nine years old I was staying at my Grandmother’s house one summer. We called her Memaw. She taught me to read by sitting me on her lap, so young that I don’t remember the first time. She did the same for her other grandson, Trent. We were her only two and neither of us would trade all those stories and love for anything. She taught me to love stories. Well, that summer, when I was getting old enough to be a little weird about being read to or sitting on anyone’s lap, I was at my grandparents house, and I was bored. I was going through old pictures and stuff in a back closet when I stumbled upon an old, leather bound book with yellow pages. On the cover it said:
The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Henry Pyle.
Now all I knew of Robin Hood at this point I learned from Disney, and to this day, I dearly love that old animated film with the Fox as Robin and Little John the bear; with that incredible cast of voice actors including the amazing Peter Ustinov as Prince John. I loved the story as I knew it, so I settled into the old ‘story chair’ and started reading. It was wonderful!
The book was filled with laughing rogues and rollicking fights; archaic language and action; high romance and rebellion against injustice!! It may not be the book that made me a reader, but it certainly was the book that made me love the stories I still gravitate towards, even at fifty! And my favorite character, then and now, was Friar Tuck. When my father showed me the Errol Flynn version of the film, Tuck being played by the inestimable Eugene Pallette, those stories stuck in my mind forever.
It’s funny, what turned out to be a false narrative in the news this week is what made me remember. It was reported that our governor had made calls to several pastors asking them tell their congregations to pressure their representatives to back a certain piece of legislation; turns out the facts weren’t so cut and dried, but my reaction was!
I immediately thought of Andy Devine voicing my hero, Friar Tuck, as a badger of course, in the Disney version of Robin Hood; confronting the Sheriff of Nottingham and bellowing at him, before ultimately attacking him with a quarterstaff, “GET OUTTA MY CHURCH!” I was so there. I’m glad that it didn’t quite happen that way, although it’s not the first time the stink of this kind of behavior has raised it’s ugly head. That’s an argument for another day. Here’s the deal, I want to be Tuck!
I have always wanted to be the pastor of a merry band of misfits who help those who are in need and is a friend of singers and storytellers. I have always wanted to give aid and spiritual succor to a group of mighty ruffians who laugh loud, sing louder and love each other like only fringe dwelling outlaws can! And I have always wanted to stand against the wrong way to do things while protecting my beloved Church and serving my beloved Savior!
We first see Tuck, after he has the incident with Robin at the ford, bearding the local priest and abbot while marrying Alan-a-Dale to his true love, whom her father had tried to marry to an old knight! He then asks to be part of the band as their chaplain and take care of their spiritual needs!
Spiritual leader to the outcast, miscreant and downtrodden! Sound familiar? Sounds like our Lord! So, even as I live out my dream, I ask you to remember that we are always battling against spiritual darkness in high places: Government, Popular Religion, Elitist attitudes that keep the cycle in place. There is light in those places, too! You can recognize it by the earmarks of love for Christ, love for justice and freedom, a heart for the broken and marginalized, and a love for real righteousness as defined by the life of Christ. Jesus always chose the outcasts as His followers and their mission. He loved them into tools of great art that changed the world. He continues to do so today.
Be Friar Tuck!