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Lambeth Walk, photo by Bill BrandtHallo again to all.

This morning at our parish church we listened to a gospel lection about the kingdom of heaven. This pericope contains some of the most memorable and inscrutable of Jesus' parables. We hear that the kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, like leaven which a woman hid in three measures of flour, like treasure hidden in a field, like a merchant in search of fine pearls, and like a net thrown into the sea.

Each time we have heard one of these parables expounded in the course of our lives, it has been presented by the preacher or Bible study leader in a new way. Like jewels held up for inspection, the light passing through each parable refracts in different ways for each person who hears them without in any way changing their substance. We suspect and hope that every time we hear these parables they will provide a fresh piece of teaching for us to receive down the range of twenty centuries from ancient Roman Palestine.

Lambeth WalkThough we hesitate tonight out of honour for the sacred page to write in parables ourselves, it occurred to us this week that perhaps the kingdom of heaven is also like the Lambeth Walk. People of a few not-too-remote natal decades will understand Lambeth Walk to mean a dance made popular during the 1930s and 1940s; they will almost certainly, too, understand it to be the song that went along with this jaunty dance. (AO background research this week involved purchasing the phonograph record pictured here and trying out the steps on the creaky wooden floors of our flat.)

But it is not the Lambeth Walk of yore to which we'd like to call our readers' attention this week, even if we know you'd be happier for a few bars of the song and a daily dose of the actual dance.* Our thought is instead about the Lambeth Walk that took place three days ago as part of the Lambeth Conference 2008.

Known more formally as the 'Walk of Witness' in support of the Millennium Development Goals, this Lambeth Walk involved some 650 Anglican bishops and their spouses—along with the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Orthodox Bishop Kallistos Ware, Armenian Apostolic Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, the Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth, and the retired General Secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain. Aerial video of this event shows a line of purple shirts moving past the Houses of Parliament, by the Prime Minister's official residence at Downing Street, and ending at Lambeth Palace; we have never been happier to see so much purple in one place. The Archbishop of Canterbury's words in this connection pledged nearly every diocese represented at the Lambeth Conference to a revolutionary programme of active Christian service toward those who suffer in our world:

We are committing ourselves as bishops, as Anglican believers, as people of faith to do justice. That is to seek systems in our world that will give to each of us what they deserve in the eyes of God, not what they deserve because of their prosperity or success, but what they deserve because they are made in God's image and demand our respect our love and our service without qualification. That is justice.

Photo Chris Clement © 2008 Episcopal Life Online

It is our hope this week that the Lambeth Walk of 2008—even if it is not quite itself like the kingdom of heaven—will be one of the great fruits of this decennial conference, committing its participants to a vision of the kingdom of heaven in which, with God's help, we can do what is so explicitly required of us: to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).

See you next week. Oi!

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Last updated: 27 July 2008

* Give it a try. YouTube can help: here and here and here. No, really, try it.

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