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Give Me Your Hand

A meditation for Lent

Give Me Your Hand
Sunday, February 22, 2015 James Walker
photo of a forest

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

Rainer Maria Rilke

In 1983 I first experienced the richness of the season of Lent. This just happened to have coincided with my arrival on staff at All Saints Church. Sure, I knew a little about Lent, born and raised Presbyterian, but the dramatic marking of the season came alive for me as I experienced my first Lent at All Saints.

Each year, I continue to be enormously grateful for this time set aside for deep reflection. This Rilke poem has a permanent place in my heart — a song that sings in my soul. I first came across it in a choral setting by distinguished American composer Gwyneth Walker. It has been seven years since Canterbury Choir sang this stirring anthem in worship at All Saints, and we will be offering it on Sunday, March 1.

As we have prepared the music and text over the past several weeks — in community, the poem has become even more meaningful to me — personally. The words of Rilke call me to stop … to listen to that “still, small voice” of God.

For me to go to the limits of my longing, to flare up like a flame, I do need to find a way to stop, to remove the clutter of life and to deeply listen. That can be scary, for I don’t know what I’ll hear when I’m truly open and alert.

And yet, that journey of communion that leads to fuller, more authentic, life is not solitary. At the beginning of a silent retreat several years ago, my spiritual director handed me a card that read: “Imagine how it is for God to have this kind of time with you.”

A nationally-​recognized conductor and concert organist, James Walker entertains and enlightens audiences throughout the United States, and his solo recitals are broadcast on National Public Radio. Winner of the prestigious Mader National Organ-​Playing Competition in 1986, he is a featured soloist at Bach festivals and regional and national music conventions. Currently James is Director of Music at All Saints Church, Pasadena, California.

8 Comments

  1. That was such a beautiful and touching piece on Sunday, I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. As always, the music we are privileged to hear at ASC on Sundays is a gift. Your music fills my soul and the souls of many others and heightens our senses in ways words can’t describe. And thank you for sharing your thoughts on this piece too. Is there a recording of it somewhere? If I could listen to it everyday, I would!! Thank you James and all the musicians of ASC.

    Jamie Barnett Tuesday, March 3, 2015
  2. Thank you, dear James, for the gift of glorious music. It sustains me, lifts me up, restores me, and keeps me centered in my spiritual life. I first began attending ASC in 1961 when I was a freshman at PCC. I had grown up in the First Baptist Church two blocks away on Marengo — an all-​white church that was totally apolitical. I told my mother I was going to go to a different church every Sunday until I found a church that wasn’t just a Sunday, hats and gloves, kind of place. When I walked into All Saints they were having a black art show! I knew I had found my church home! And, a bonus, they were opposing the Vietnam War. John Burt was the Rector.

    Tiona Wierman Monday, March 2, 2015
  3. Thanks for sharing so personally, and encouraging us to go deeper … wonderful reminder and resource.

    Jeanie Riddell Friday, February 27, 2015
    • Thanks for writing, Jeanie. All the best, as ever. J

      James Walker Saturday, February 28, 2015
  4. I absolutely am touched by the writing you have shared by Rainer Maria Rilke. I took have experienced a silent retreat and no words can describe the intamacy with our creator that I experienced and needed so much during that time. To truly understand for the first time His love for me, and all of us here was beyond what my heart could contain. This time of year during lent is purely beautiful in a way that guides us inward in one aspect to reflect and outward as to what we do with our lives as a reflection of Him in our lives. You as my uncle possess such gifts from Him and I am so touched by how you make use of them and reach others through the Holy Spirit. I love you JJ! One of your favorite nieces, Ali

    Alison Nunes Friday, February 27, 2015
    • Thanks so much for writing, Alison. Looking forward to spending some time with you soon.

      James Walker Saturday, February 28, 2015
  5. Thank you for this. It is very beautiful. And timely for me!

    anita davis Friday, February 27, 2015
    • Thanks, Anita. I’m so glad it was timely for you.

      James Walker Saturday, February 28, 2015

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