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God's Feasts: Too Much Trouble?

by Robert Berendt
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio Pexels
 

The first Feast of Tabernacles our family observed was in 1965. We had been in the Church just short of a year, we had read the clear statements about God's Holy Days, and we knew that Jesus had observed them every year in Jerusalem. Armed with this knowledge and the determination to obey God, we began to plan. A plan was needed as we had three small children and very little money. The nearest Feast site was Squaw Valley, California and we had never even been out of Canada! We DID plan to the very best of our ability!

The first hurdle was for me to get time off from my teaching position. This was no easy matter, but after gentle and yet strong persistence I was asked to present myself to the Supervisor of the School District. After I showed him my interest in the classes I taught (mainly Grade 12 Chemistry) and my strong desire to attend the Feast, the Supervisor stood up, put out his hand to me, and said,"It is a pleasure to have someone on our teaching staff that stands up for what he believes... enjoy the trip!" That was a good start.

My wife Joan and I quickly loaded the used Volkswagen we had just bought. Taking camping equipment and three children entailed removing the back seat and packing everything in.... finally the children (our two sons, Rick and Dan along with our first daughter Cathy) lying down like rugs in the back. Seat belts were not mandatory in those days!

Off we went... our adventure began! The trip south went well, and in two and a half days we were there. We pitched our tent by Lake Tahoe, then went off to services. There were two services each day and all of us were enthused. The spiritual level was high and the sermons inspiring.

California was the land of sunshine and warmth; or so we had been told. That year we had rain and sleet... not just showers, but drenching, freezing rain! After three days we were forced to move out of our tent into the living room in the home of some wonderful Church members who took pity on us. There we stayed all together for the whole Feast. We formed some lifelong friendships in that week.

The last day of the Feast arrived all too quickly, and we were out of money except for the few dollars we had budgeted for the return trip. There we were on that last day, stopping in front of a restaurant, but our real objective was the grocery store across the street. We had just enough for some buns and cheese. Looking back, I don't remember one complaint from our children or from ourselves; we were just happy to be there. But, quite unexpectedly, along came a Church member we knew from back home in Edmonton, Dr. John Kuruliak. He waltzed over to our car and said, "Just the people I am looking for... I would like to take you to supper." That was a lovely meal: all the trimmings, and Dr. Kuruliak urged us to order whatever we wished. We thought he might have been an angel... or at least that he had been sent by God.

But now the time had come for the rushed trip home. Rushed because I needed to be back in the classroom. On the trip down to the Feast, with the crowded conditions in the car, every so often a little foot kicked the gearshift out of fourth. In a Volkswagen, without fourth gear you can't travel very quickly. Suddenly the gear began popping out by itself. By the time we had been on the road for four hours the gear had grown steadily worse until it reached the point where it would not stay in at all. Slowing us down this much would be a disaster so far from home. At Boise,Idaho, we found a Volkswagen dealer and asked him to give us a repair estimate. He told us that the transmission was a mess. Although we did have a credit card, we had very little cash left over from the Feast, and we certainly did not have the five hundred dollars needed for the repairs. We decided to drive on as best we could.

A few miles down the road we stopped and I said to the children,"We need help. Let us ask God to help us. We have come all this way in order to obey Him because we love Him and deeply appreciate the gift of his Son, Jesus". During the prayer I reminded God (not that He needed reminding) that we had come all that way in order to please Him, and now we needed His help to get home.

Off we went and with confidence. I shifted into fourth gear. It popped out! Again I tried. Again failure. Then I realized that if I held the gearshift firmly in place it would stay. That is how we traveled for the next thousand miles (1,600 kilometers). We arrived home just in time for me to go to work at the school. We were so excited about the help God had given us. He did not do the whole job for us, but we were confident that He definitely helped. My arm was stiff as a board for the next three days, but that only reminded me of God's mercy upon our family.

In the weeks after our return home, still short of funds, I delayed taking the car in for repairs. But after three Sabbath trips from Edson to Edmonton, the gear would not hold even if I gripped it with all my might. I took the car to our local Volkswagen dealer. Before I could explain the problem and ask for the repairs and perhaps for delayed payments, he said, "I have been trying to get hold of you; we need a bookkeeper and I will pay $100 a month... Will you take the job?" I did not want to show my relief or excitement, so I hesitated for a millionth of a second...and said "YES!"

As I reflect on these and the numerous other blessings our family has had over the years, I wonder...I wonder what it would take for us NOT to attend the Feast. (Yes,there ARE some proper circumstances that would prevent attendance). But some say that it is "too hard", or that it is "a hardship."

I wonder why nobody told Jesus and His followers that it was too hard for them? I often think of our Lord and Saviour who attended the Feasts in Jerusalem three times a year. He walked from Galilee accompanied by dozens of His followers, men, women and, no doubt, children. The distance between Galilee and Jerusalem is 85 miles (140 kilometers) ONE WAY! Jesus and His disciples slept in orchards.They endured cold and hunger, rain in the spring and dangers along the way. I wonder, and I ask myself, "Would I have walked this distance with Jesus to attend the Feasts?", and I ask myself, "Would I do that today?" I wonder what God thinks in all this?

Scripture tell us that God dwelt with us in the flesh. So I think I know what He thinks...and I think I know what He would say and what He would do!

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