Friar Tuck's Sermon May 11, 2005
Oh you rich people! You come to Robin Hood's forest hangout once a year. You showed up here tonight because you thought it would be fun to meet a few poor people. You've never met any poor people before and you're curious about the games and songs they entertain each other with. You will return to your gated community with a sample of the poor people's music (also known as "folk songs") to surprise and delight your friends with. You hope to learn a new dance step perhaps, or one of those picturesque words or phrases poor people use. You'll be the life of the party for sure!
Of course the very idea of actually giving away all your money and becoming poor (as the Lord suggests in Matthew 19) is not in the cards. You only arrived as the kind of traveler Oregon Governor Tom McCall admired so much and used to invite to Oregon. You only come here to visit and not to stay.
But be assured. Robin Hood understands why you came. Robin Hood knows your secret and your secret is safe with Robin Hood. And the secret is that the rich envy the poor even more than the poor envy the rich!
I don't mean to make you feel unwelcome here in Robin Hood's greenwood. Please don't go away! Linger a while here in the Fourteenth Century and savor what it was like when only a very few human beings were rich and the rest were regarded as nothing more than cattle ("chattle" was the word used.). Look around and feel some pity-- not for the poor but for the rich! Here on the eve of the Black Death, when the poor would be so reduced in number that they would actually get paid for their work. Their names-- baker, plumber, farmer, taylor, smith, cook, weaver, butler, porter, cooper, mason, miller, cobbler, painter --would be a source of pride for them, rather than their shame!
But that hasn't happened yet. Now you and I meet during a time when the gap between the rich and the poor is even greater than in America during the early 21st Century. Do you see those buildings up on the hill? Those are the castles where the rich people live. Ask yourself: Why do rich folks hide out in those rat infested dungeons called "castles" high up in the clouds? Because they enjoy beautiful scenery? Possibly. But then again there is no evidence at all that rich people enjoyed beautiful scenery during Medieval times the way we do today. Their spiritual advisors had taught them that the natural environment is a place teaming with every kind of evil, with robbers, assassins, malefactors, counterfeiters, heretics, witches, sorcerers, dragons and other wild beasts too terrible to name. You don't want to go out there! Close the gate and shutter the windows before something sees you!
So why did the rich live in those castles? The answer is not hard to understand. It was because they did not want to live down there next door to those miserable rat infested hovels where the poor live, that's why.
And yet even in their castles, the rich did not feel entirely secure. For they had to crack open the gate just enough to let in a few poor people to work as scullery maids, bakers, plumbers, farmers, taylors, smiths, cooks, weavers, butlers, porters, coopers, masons, millers, cobblers, painters and the like. They also had to deal with their own flesh and blood, who would begin eying them like a piece of meat the moment they were old enough to pronounce the word "Monnnney! MON-ney! Money!!"
And so the Lord of the Castle had a room just for himself deep in the heart of the castle, where he could hide out in case of an uprising among the servants-- inspired quite often by his own children. And even in his private vault the rich man did not feel safe!
For he soon discovers that money fluctuates in value. It inflates or it deflates or (if the Bank of Florence fails) vanishes completely. And so he cracks open the door of his vault just enough to let in a financial advisor to whom he entrusts all his money, only to discover a few weeks later that the man has invested it all in junk bonds while at the same time investing all his own money in Euros! And when called upon (in the usual Medieval tradition with surgical instruments heated red hot and a noose around the neck to keep the subject on his toes throughout the operation) to explain the discrepancy, the investment counselor replies with a half hour explanation to which the Lord listens carefully but of which he understands not a word.
And so, in the month of May, when the Sun rises at about the same time he does, the rich person is struck in the eye by a ray of light from the window and in the ear by a chord of music that seems to come from just below the parapet (you know, the parapet, where the hot oil is tossed over in case they get too close). The poor people, the humble people, the meek people down in the valley, without a financial care in the world, are singing and laughing and dancing to the traditional Robin Hood song:
Hallintow. Jolly Jumbalow. We were up long before the day-o.
And so here we are! In the greenwood once again! Rich and poor alike without distinction. We have nothing to fear but the corruption of our manners!