Read Sermon


The Staff of Life is Christ

An address by Fr John Slater

18 May 2003 11:00 | Fr John Slater

When I was a boy, Good Friday was not a public holiday in England, and Good Friday services were held early in the morning so that people could attend them and still get to work. The Sunday School organised long walks over the Pennine Hills, and quite frequently we passed an inn called The Staff of Life which stood on the site of an ancient tavern which had served bread and ale to pilgrims on their way to Whalley Abbey before the Reformation. In those days the north was sparsely populated and the parish of Whalley was 150 square miles, so people had to walk long distances to hear mass or to be married or to bury their dead.

In the inn there was a framed parchment on the wall with these words,

Rejoice, O traveller in this bread,

the staff of life.

For the Lord our God,

King of the Universe,

brought it forth out of the grave

to give life to men.

Yea, out of the grave indeed;

for, the grain of wheat abideth alone

unless it be buried in the earth

even as a dead man.

but, buried, it shall bring forth fruit abundantly.

And our Saviour Christ was buried too,

crucified for us,

that he should not abide alone,

the only fruit of man;

but, dying for us,

yea, buried in the grave,

he is become the firstfruits

of an abundant harvest,

even all Christian folk.

It was our Lord himself who spoke of the grain of wheat which must be buried in the earth before it can spring to new life. And it is he himself who died and was buried and so rose again to new life - the new life that we celebrate at Easter and at every Eucharist. For it is in this very principle that life comes by way of death and not by avoiding death that we see in the pattern of every Eucharist. We break the bread and in its brokenness and in its being shared we know that Jesus is present within us and amongst us.

The pattern of the Eucharist is that we take what God gives us in the creation, of which bread and wine are the symbols, and we give God thanks for it; and we break the bread and pour out the wine, accepting the brokenness which comes with human experience, and discovering new life through the sharing of the gifts. We share the bread which he broke and we are called to share equally in the character of his life - the taking, blessing, breaking and sharing of life so that we may be instruments through whom others also discover the new life of the Risen Jesus.

Christ is the single grain of wheat that was sown into the ground, dying in order to bring forth the abundant harvest of the Church. We ourselves are the harvest of that seed sown in the death of the Lord. He said that good seed brings forth good fruit, so we must imitate him and present to the world that same redeeming pattern of life that we have seen in him.

The disciples on the road to Emmaus recognised Jesus in the breaking of the bread. This action was so characteristic of Jesus; it summed up his whole life and teaching - this taking, blessing, breaking and giving. And this is the action which is also characteristic of the new life of Christians in the Church - summing up who we are and how we live.
Cookies used on this website
New EU legislation requires that all web sites clearly specify the presence of cookies and their purpose. Cookies are used to enhance the user experience. StGeorges uses Google Analytics to track activity on its site, helping to keep the site relevant and easier to use, via the use of these cookies . For an enhanced site experience, consumers will need to consent to the use of StGeorges cookies. A preference cookie, that will become available to you when you choose the ‘I agree’ button, will be a long-life cookie that will not automatically clear when you close the browser window. If you manually delete this cookie you will need to re-confirm your preferences every time you next visit this website, unless you choose accept the long life option.