UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Quote Unquote

‘Sometimes I have loved the peacefulness of an ordinary Sunday.’

By David Giuliano


As a student minister, I served the tiny congregation in Crane Valley, Sask. (pop. 65). One of the legends told there was about the preacher who shut down a Sunday baseball game. It happened in the early 1950s. The final game in the tournament had been rained out on Saturday night and resumed on Sunday morning. The Crane Valley Blues were playing.

The preacher took note of his diminished flock that morning. He saddled-up and rode his horse to the ball diamond, situated in the shadow of the grain elevator on the edge of town. From his high horse, the incensed reverend harangued players and spectators alike until they abandoned the game and returned to the pews.

Following the service, two amendments were negotiated regarding local Sabbath conventions. First, baseball could be played on Sunday afternoons, but not mornings. Second, a place on the Crane Valley Blues’ roster would be henceforth reserved for the preacher. That’s how, in the summer of 1985, I found myself warming the Crane Valley Blues’ bench, sometimes on a Sunday afternoon.

They seem quaint now, those stultifying Sabbath restrictions our parents and grandparents endured. No card playing or dancing or car washing or shopping or laundry or lawn cutting. Sunday was the day of rest, for picnics, courting, quiet walks and family dinners.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20/Deuteronomy 5). It’s right there in the Ten Commandments. Imagine if we were as cavalier about killing or stealing or coveting as we are about the Sabbath. The Sabbath is not one of the “Ten Suggestions.” Yes, Jesus worked on the Sabbath occasionally but he was healing the sick, not shopping for liquorice whips and televisions at Walmart. Jesus said that the Sabbath is a blessing not a burden.

With shift work, 24-7 shopping, the omnipresence of social media and frenetic recreational schedules, hardly anyone, including me, stops or even slows down to keep the Sabbath anymore. Who has time?

Conscious of his mortality, John Ames, the aging preacher in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, writes to his seven-year-old son. “Sometimes I have loved the peacefulness of an ordinary Sunday. It is like standing in a newly planted garden after a warm rain. You can feel the silent and invisible life. All it needs from you is that you take care not to trample on it.”

With those words, Robinson captures the blessing of Sabbath keeping. The day of rest reminds us that there is a “silent and invisible life” at work in us, and in the world, that does not depend on our machinations or productivity or busyness. There is a mysterious creative force that is more powerful than anything we do.

Sabbath, in that sense, is revolutionary. To stop. To rest. It is subversive to defy the false urgency of cell phones, iPads, Snapchats, tweets and the relentless Facebook feed with photos of our friends’ lunches, kittens and kids, to instead be fully present to God in Creation and with the person across the table from us.

This is not a wholesale rejection of the modern world or of social media or even of busyness. It is a call to rest from accomplishment, competition, consumption and the often banal distractions of technology. It is an invitation to rest; to rest our bodies, minds and souls so that we can find our proper place in the world.

We aren’t all Christians. The times of a whole day of legislated common rest are over. We can keep Sabbath moments, though. We can rest and notice the remarkable green that awakens — not by any accomplishment or effort on our part. We can notice the warm rain in spring and take care not to trample on the life it is calling up.

Very Rev. David Giuliano is a former United Church moderator and a minister with St. John’s United in Marathon, Ont.


Author's photo
David Giuliano is the former moderator of The United Church of Canada, an award-winning writer and author of "Postcards from the Valley: Encounters with Fear, Faith and God." He lives with his wife, Pearl, in Marathon, Ont.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

Enclaves of the elderly

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: A shoulder to lean on

by Observer Staff

Sheima Benembarek was born in Saudi Arabia, grew up in Morocco and moved to Canada in 2005. In 2015, she relocated to Toronto. At first, the city seemed so much bigger, impersonal — and even threatening — until a fateful encounter in the subway one day.

Promotional Image

Faith

January 2017

Presbytery turns down bid to halt Vosper hearing

by Mike Milne

World

February 2017

Many faces, one humanity

by Wade Davis

The words and photographs of the Canadian author and explorer capture the richness — and fragility — of global cultures and rituals

Society

February 2017

An anatomy of hate

by Douglas Tindal

It’s on the rise everywhere. The writer explores our most troubling emotion and asks how we might overcome it.

World

February 2017

Many faces, one humanity

by Wade Davis

The words and photographs of the Canadian author and explorer capture the richness — and fragility — of global cultures and rituals

Society

January 2017

The new agrarians

by Lois Ross

In the next 15 years, almost half of Canadian farms will change hands. Meet seven millennials who view agriculture as a career — and moral calling.

Faith

March 2016

The Walrus Talks Spirituality

by Observer Staff

Promotional Image