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Friday, May 23, 2014

During this week when we mark the dedication
of the Sanctuary of Fourth Presbyterian Church
100 years ago, we share these words by
John Timothy Stone, Pastor of Fourth Church,
preached on May 21, 1914, at the opening session of the
General Assembly, which was hosted in the new Sanctuary

Scripture Reading: Acts 1:3–8
After Jesus’ suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (NRSV)

The one great truth which Christ would impart to those early followers so soon to be left without his personality and presence in leadership was the truth of the reality of the Holy Spirit and the power which was to be theirs through him.

Throughout the centuries and ages of the Christian church, this theme has been without a rival—and still we seem to evade and postpone it. Perhaps because so many have erred in narrowing and limiting and misconstruing it. Perhaps because we have feared to travel such holy ground.

The church of Christ has needed this truth—and needs it more than ever in this age in which we live, so filled with its complexity of thought, so eager to know the truth and apply it practically to life, so willing to search into the deep things of human philosophy and material science and discover new relationships, adjustments, and appliances of truth.

The last great promise that Christ made us, when people heard his words as they came from his lips which the eye could see, was the promise of the power of his Holy Spirit, who would come and remain with us, instruct, comfort, strengthen, and accomplish for and through us.

This power of the Holy Spirit was to be given first in the commonplace duties of life. Those early disciples were zealous for the restoration of Israel’s great kingdom. Christ calls them back to the simplicity in service. What he needed was witnessing. The world knew him not. Only a little circle understood the mission of Jesus of Nazareth, and the power of the Holy Spirit was to be theirs—is to be ours—that they should witness, beginning where they were.

Holy One, your power is with us in the person of the Holy Spirit, to comfort and direct, to poise and plan, to rest and strengthen us, for in your Spirit is the source of all strength and power, filling our lives with hope and joy and peace. Thanks be to God. Amen.

By John Timothy Stone
Pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church (1909–1930)

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