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Which aisle are the fresh sermons on?

David Snapper knows exactly where to find inspiration for his sermons every Sunday — or better yet, he knows what he tells his parishioners when they ask.

While some would bristle at the thought of having to prepare a 20-minute speech every week, Snapper, pastor at Anchor of Hope Christian Reformed Church, thrives on it.

Like other pastors, he uses his sermons as an opportunity to tie together real-life scenarios and biblical scripture.

“For a long time I have said to my church family something like this: Last night I was in the Safeway store wandering down the aisle where they keep fresh sermons,” Snapper said. “You don’t go to that part of the store very often, but I go there all the time.”

His grocery store introductions serves as a platform for many a sermon. In the store, he said, is where he has run into many diverse folks.

“And then I say, when I was in the fresh sermon section at Safeway, I saw a person,” he said. “The person I saw may have been old or young, sick or well, lonely or in love. But every person tells a story if you look.”

For Snapper, his sermons come naturally. Every where he looks, he sees a teaching moment.

“Ideas are everywhere — in the grocery store, in the look of a distressed mother, the happy tune of a person whistling,” he said.

There is one challenge to his job, however.

“The hard part is telling the story with the authentic tenderness of God,” he said. “I always want what I say to be helpful so that people feel that they could trust the God I am talking about. I want people to know that the Jesus we talk about is safe and good and kind and that Jesus rescues people.”

When Snapper is preparing a sermon, sometimes he can’t find the right words to use — what he likes to call “preacher’s block.”

“I find that I have writer’s block when I am trying too hard,” he said. “If I can’t find the right thing to say, I stop. I abandon my ideas. I ask God to give me more ideas that I need to stay and then I trust him with the ideas that come to my mind.”

Another way he overcomes writer’s block is that he thinks of one person who might need to be encouraged by God’s word, he said.

“I spend a long time thinking how to say this one word for that one person,” he said.

Other pastors get over their writer’s block in other ways.

Orin Covington, pastor of Central Kitsap Christian Church said his sermons usually last about 25 minutes and can sometimes be a challenge.

When he needs inspiration, he goes to one of his favorite books in the Bible: First Corinthians or Philippians.

“What I like to do when I study is look for the ‘aha!’” Covington said.

In addition, his favorite books to study for knowledge’s sake are Hebrews, and the James and John books.

“Those are the ones that have the most notes in the margins,” Covington said.

While preparing his sermons, he figures out what he wants the message to be, then goes about figuring out how to prove his point.

Sometimes if the words stop flowing, it helps if he goes and does a walk-through at the pulpit, he said.

Some Sundays the sermon topic is a no-brainer, like during Lent or the Christmas season.

“I find there’s more pressure during the nonreligious holidays,” Covington said. “If it’s Mother’s Day and I’m in the middle of a series I don’t want those (holidays) to take from the series,” he said.

Although Covington does have sermons prepared every Sunday, sometimes personal experiences in the church dictate that things change at the last minute. In October of 1996, for example, he had a sermon prepared about the joy of fellowship. On that particular morning, a teenaged girl showed up to church in tears because on her way to church she found out one of her friends had been killed in a car accident.

“Here I’ve got this sermon on joy, and I had to change it over to a talk about the sorrowful times of life,” Covington said.

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