Waiting for God

SJF • Burial of Marilyn Cotton • Tobias S Haller BSG
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. For the Lord will not reject forever.
About a dozen years ago, a group of elementary school children in Portland Maine were studying the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf Stream. You know, that’s the current that runs up from the warm Caribbean, along the east coast of the US and Canada, and then flows on across the ocean towards Europe — a river of warm water running through the chilly cold of the North Atlantic. Well, these school children decided to see if they could use this invisible stream as a means of communication. They wrote messages with their names and addresses on slips of paper, and put them into some old empty bottles. They sealed the bottles tight, and then handed them over to a friendly fishing boat captain, who took them out to sea and dropped them into the Gulf Stream.

For a long time nothing happened. Months went by — and you know, when you’re ten years old a few months is a long time! But then two of the students got letters — from Canada! Their bottles hadn’t traveled very far at all.

For some years nothing further happened. Maybe the bottles hadn’t been as tightly sealed as they thought. Maybe a big fish had come along and gobbled them up — like Jonah! Or maybe whoever found them just didn’t bother to answer the message.

Time passed; and then, one day, after the children had reached their teens, one of them got a letter from France: one of the bottles had made it all the way across the ocean and down to the coast of Normandy, where it had been found on the beach.

Jeremiah wrote, “It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Sometimes the wait seems long. Sometimes, since our prayers to God are like so many bottles cast adrift, we might be tempted to wonder if we will ever get a response. But we never give up waiting, we never give up sending off new bottles day by day and year by year, each one a prayer and a hope.

Marilyn Cotton never gave up on the Lord for whom she waited. In her many faithful years she cast many a message on the waters, many a prayer and many a hope, waiting, always waiting, for the answer to come back. Little hints did arrive from time to time, little indications that the message was getting through — you saw it in the joy she had in her eyes herein this church. Even when her earthly vision was fading she still caught sight of something better and brighter. It brought her here to this church, to this altar, week by week, borne on the warm stream of God’s love through the icy waters of this world of ours.

And then, last Sunday, her wait came to an end. God himself took her by the hand, guiding her along the path her many prayers and messages had gone, on up along that warm stream of God’s grace, on to the place of rest and peace — to that farther shore.

“For the Lord is good to the soul that waits for him, the soul that trusts in him.” He knows his own as his own know him. He’s received more of those messages than it may have appeared to us in our times of stress and loss and pain. In fact, he’s gotten every single last one of them. And it’s not that he ignores them — Oh, no! It is just that he is so very careful that not a single one be lost.

Marilyn — “Mame” — has left us, carried away in God’s own arms, to the place where there is no further pain nor grief, nor tears nor sighing, where vision is clear, and the heart rejoices. She has sailed on the course she charted inherprayers, along that warm stream of God’s love, to be with those who have gone before, to rest on that farther shore, and there in glory shine.

It is for us, still feebly glimmering in the midst of a cold winter — in the midst of a world of terrorism and tidal waves, of broken hearts and broken boilers — but Christmas! — to do as Marilyn did and resolutely keep on sending our messages, proclaiming who we are and whose we are — God’s children — sealing our prayers with the seal of faith and hope, and sending them out into the stream of God’s love. They will not go adrift. Not one of them will be lost. They will reach the hands of God. And though he appear to tarry, be not dismayed — he is patient and careful and will not miss a single one. We too one day will hear him summon us by name, and we will listen to his voice, and know it to be the voice of the one for whom we have longed. We will know that our messages have been received, and we have been received, for we will have heard from the one from whom we sought a word, the Word of God himself, now speaking his loving word to us.

We too one day will join with Marilyn and all our beloved sisters and brothers at the throne of God, where no hunger nor thirst nor heat will touch us, and where all tears will be wiped from our eyes. And there we will rejoice forever, with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd and our King, to whom be ascribed all might, majesty, power and dominion, henceforth and forever more.

The story of the elementary school class experience with the Gulf Stream is based on a Reuters account.