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STEINBECK AND HIS HELL-SERMON EXPERIENCE

In a fascinating story of his journey across the United States, John Steinbeck tells of a Church service he attended during his travels in the State of Vermont. Tongue-in-cheek, he says,

"The preacher spoke of Hell as an expert. Not the mush-mush Hell of these soft days, but a white-hot Hell served by technicians of the first order. This reverend brought us to a point where we could really understand it: a good hard-coal fire, plenty of draft, and a squad of devils who put their heart into their work -- and their work was me.

"I began to feel good all over ... this Vermont God cared enough about me to put my sins in a new perspective. Whereas they had been small and nasty and best forgotten, this preacher gave my sins some size and bloom and dignity. I hadn’t been thinking very well of myself for some years, but if my sins had this dimension there was some pride left. I wasn’t the naughty child after all, but a first rate sinner ... I felt so revived by this sermon that I put $5.00 in the collection plate.

"And afterward, out in front of the Church, I shook hands warmly with the preacher and as many of the congregation as I could. It gave me a lovely sense of evil-doing that lasted clear through till Tuesday."

I have no doubt that each one of us can identify to a certain extent with Steinbeck’s Vermont experience -- especially the part about the impact of the Sunday sermon lasting "clear through till Tuesday"--if that long.

(Source: John Steinbeck, from a sermon by Don Hawks, "What Do I Expect to Hear?" 7/13/08, SermonCentral.com)

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