Sharing a Reading for a New Friend

This is a reading that I prepared for my beautiful nice and godchild, Courtney, on her wedding day to Ian… a wonderful man that compliments her perfectly. I’m sharing it for my “new pal” Monsignor Hilary Franco, a fellow brother doing incredible things to better our world.

Good evening friends and family. When my beautiful godchild Courtney asked me to speak at her wedding ceremony, I was delighted. I happily accepted and immediately knew the subject matter on which I would speak as well as share a bit of personal reflection in doing so. I’d like to focus on a chapter in the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament of the Bible. Unlike other chapters in Psalms, however, this is a chapter that I don’t believe is typically used or referenced in wedding ceremonies. It’s a passage that has come to mean a lot to me personally and one that I believe applies to this wonderful occasion that we are all gathered here to celebrate.

This Psalm crossed my path, quite literally, some years ago when I was on a humanitarian mission in the mountains of the Seguin Plateau in Haiti to install rain collection systems that help in providing clean, sustainable water. On this trip, my team and I performed daily hikes across miles of mountainside to deliver and assemble our water collecting hardware on a small number of homes scattered across the vast landscape.

One hike in particular was to the home of a newly married couple that had been pre-selected by the village elders. It was like many other treks that we had done prior, however this one turned out to be unexpectedly different for me. As we approached the very basic stoned wall and tin roof structure I noticed that two words had been hand-carved into the wooden plank entry door. They simply read, “Psalm 139.” I read them, passed them over, and honestly didn’t give them much thought. We installed the raincatcher and continued to do so throughout the week on other homes throughout the villages.

Many days later, at the end of our trip, my team and I began our descent down the mountain to begin our return back home. To my complete surprise, the words “Psalm 139” again crossed my path while reading personal entries written in a shared journal that our volunteer teams have collectively authored over many trips spanning many years. A woman on a trip before mine had written Psalm 139 verse for verse in the journal, and in reading her entry the words landed on me quite heavy. Heavy for the fact that the context of the Psalm immediately allowed me to understand the faith of that newlywed couple on the mountainside that I left knowing very little about. An unbelievable faith in God so strong in a country that is so incredibly poor and sick, no less. A faith so strong that the newlyweds literally carved it on their front door for all to witness. They knew that God had not forgotten them in a land so raw and so unforgiving. Psalm 139 reads as follows:

“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, Lord, you know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them? Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand — and when I awake, I am still with you.”

I constantly see how big God is. Psalm 139 complements my belief that He is always present, and that he understands me deeply. As a result, I find this passage remarkably powerful and incredibly uplifting.

Courtney and Ian, as I considered this passage in preparation for your wedding, I came to appreciate that not only does it speak to God’s understanding of your marriage here today, it perfectly speaks to your understanding of one another as husband and wife as well. I’d like to read the Psalm again, but this time please listen to the passage as if you both are speaking the words to one other. Again, Psalm 139:

“You have searched me, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well. How precious to me are your thoughts! How vast is the sum of them? Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand — and when I awake, I am still with you.”

I truly believe that this eloquent Psalm can serve as a strong foundation for you to build your marriage on as you begin your lives together as one. The words describe the beautiful relationship that God has with you, and that you do with one another as you join hands today. You both know and understand one another like no other person can, except for God that is. Remember to rely on Him for all things first, and on each other second.

Courtney, as your Godfather I ask that you keep these words close as an assurance of God’s unending love for you and for Ian. May He continue to bless you both, and may you have many, many beautiful years together. I love you both very, very much.” ~ Uncle Jamie.