The Sermon That Did Not Record Which Had Katy Perry and Frederick Buechner In It

Yesterday, after our church service ended, I picked up my phone from the chair and was surprised to see I had a text message notification from my wife. She had been there with me, in that same service, up on the stage and down on the first row. My first thought was that maybe she was informing me of something embarrassing, like, “Your zipper is down!” or “You have two different shoes on!” or something like that. But when I read her text message, it made me smile and feel known and loved. Here’s a screenshot of it:

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She knows I love to include in my sermons some jarring  juxtapositions of the ancient and modern, the sacred and the secular, high art and guilty pleasures… and she was calling me out for it.

Anyway, it was one of those messages that I really felt and really believe and parts of it seemed to just flow out of me as if the words were already written and established in my heart for ages. I was gonna share the link to the video of the sermon, but we had some technical glitch that I would not understand if I tried and could not fix if my life depended on it (so, no judgment, media team!). The glitch meant no audio was recorded at all.

Oh well, I actually prefer being read than watched or listened to anyway! And, lucky for me, all of my sermons are complete manuscripts. So I’m sharing The Sermon That Did Not Record Which Had Katy Perry And Frederick Buechner In It.

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Just a little background on this song, “Love… Thy Will Be Done” —

Martika was a young new artist who began recording in the late ‘80’s. In the early ‘90’s, she really wanted to work with Prince—so she reached out and he agreed to meet her. When they met, he asked to see some of her work, some of the lyrics she’d written… and she handed him her journal. He looked through it and asked if he could take it for some time to sit with it and see what resonated with him. Martika agreed.

A week later, Prince got together with her and showed her what he’d done. He took something she wrote – something she had written as a prayer – and turned it into this song: Love… Thy Will Be Done. He’d already recorded a demo – with all the music and with his voice singing the lyrics.

Prince was the producer for Martika’s recording of the song – and in July of 1991 it was her first single released… it reached the top 10 on the charts of seven countries, including Australia, where it peaked at number one in October 1991.

Since that time, it’s been covered by multiple artists.

And after Prince’s death, his original recording that he brought to Martika – with him singing, was released on the album Originals in June of 2019. It’s an album of songs that Prince wrote and gave to other artists to record and perform and it contains his demos.

“Love… Thy Will Be Done” is a two-time Song of Summer… 1991 and 2019.

And I love it.

Especially these lines:

Since I have found you—my life has just begun
And I see all of your creations as one
Perfect complex
No one less beautiful
Or more special than the next
We are all blessed and so wise to accept
Thy will love be done

Love, thy will be mine
And make me strive for the glorious and divine
I could not be more, more satisfied
Even when there’s no peace outside my window
There’s peace inside
And that’s why I no longer run
Love, thy will be done

Written as a prayer. And it’s beautiful.

1 John 4.16 says, 

We have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.


Love, thy will be done.

Today we are going to be looking at a Psalm of praise. Psalm 85. Written by the sons of Korah. It speaks of the goodness of God, what God has done before and what God will do again, and it has themes of love, faithfulness, justice, and peace.

It contains this line: “justice and peace kiss each other” – which became a popular subject of paintings in the middle ages through the 18th century.

I couldn’t find any of these paintings that would be safe for church because… nudity, and it makes you think of that steamy Katy Perry song, so… no slides. You can just imagine your own “more appropriate” kiss.

Pastor and author Frederick Buechner once said:

“If we only had eyes to see and ears to hear and wits to understand, we would know that the Kingdom of God—in the sense of holiness, goodness, beauty—is as close as breathing and is crying out to be born both within ourselves and within the world; we would know that the Kingdom of God is what we all of us hunger for above all other things even when we don’t know its name or realize that it’s what we’re starving to death for.

The Kingdom of God is where our best dreams come from and our truest prayers.

We glimpse it at those moments when we find ourselves being better than we are and wiser than we know.

We catch sight of it when at some moment of crisis a strength seems to come to us that is greater than our own strength.

The Kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and whether we realize it or not, I think we are all of us homesick for it.”

Amen. Yes!

Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Love, thy will be done.

Love, thy will be mine.

Amen and amen.

The sons of Korah wrote…

Psalm 85

1 You, oh Lord, showed favor to your land;
you restored the fortunes of your people.

2 You forgave our wrongdoings
and covered all our sins.

3 You set aside all your wrath;
and turned away from anger.

4 Restore us again, oh God our Savior,
and put away your displeasure toward us.

5 Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger through all generations?

6 Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?

7 Show us your unfailing love, Lord,
and grant us your salvation.

8 I will listen to what God says;
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—
but let them not turn to folly.

9 Surely his salvation is near those who trust in him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Love and faithfulness meet together;
justice and peace kiss each other.

11 Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
and righteousness looks down from heaven.

12 The Lord will indeed give what is good,
and our land will yield its harvest.

13 Righteousness goes before him
and prepares the way for his steps.

If I were to summarize this Psalm in a sentence, it would go something like this:

God, you have been so so so very good to us in the past and we’re kinda wondering about these things going on right now but then we remembered—you will do it all again and again.

Not nearly as eloquent or poetic, but I think it gets down to the thematic elements of this Psalm.

—Praising God for what God has done.

—Acknowledging the reality of present challenges.

—Remembering and trusting that what God has done before, God is sure to do again.

Maybe someone needed to hear that today.

What God has done before, God is sure to do again.








Listen, every good thing is from God. And every good thing is for God.

From God we come and to God we shall return.

This is not something to fear, but rather—something which brings the deepest peace and security. We are safe in the arms of our God.

Yes, there are times when we wonder if God is mad. Or has turned away. Or has somehow lifted his favor toward us. Usually wonder these things when we experience difficulty, hardship, sickness, death, loss, betrayal, and disappointment.

We jump to the conclusion that God is unhappy, displeased, is waiting for us to correct something in our lives, in our families, in our community, in our nation, in our world.

And this is because of our own smallness. Our insecurities. Our struggles to be loved and accepted. In these moments of insecurity, we feed our superstitions. We create myths – stories to make sense of what we are experiencing because we are so deeply uncomfortable admitting that pain and suffering is actually part of our very good lives.

While our frail egos and insecurities and the smallness we feel within sow seeds of doubt about the goodness of God, we must remember…

This is the God who created and said it is good, very good.

This is the God who redeems every broken thing.

This is the God who leaves the 99 and finds the 1 lost sheep.

This is the God who never leaves us nor forsakes us.

This is the God who declares, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

This is the God who has tossed our sins as far as the east is from the west and remembers them no more.

This is the God who bore our sin, our sorrow, our shame. The God who said, “It is finished.”

This is the God who abides with us, dwells within.

This is the God who releases prisoners, sets captives free, gives recovery of sight to the blind, heals the sick, and raises the dead. The God who declares the year of the Lord’s favor.

This is the God whose promises are Yes and Amen.

This is the God whose kingdom is everlasting.

This is the God who sees all things, hears all things, knows all things, and loves us still.

This is the God who would rather die upon a cross than to ever be separated from us.

This is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. The creator, the giver of life, the one who sustains us and provides for us. Our breath and our being.

And in this God, we are home. We are secure. We are loved. We belong. We are known. And we are cherished.


Again, reading from Frederick Buechner:

A Christian is one who points at Christ and says, ” I can’t prove a thing, but there’s something about his eyes and his voice. There’s something about the way he carries his head, his hands, the way he carries his cross—the way he carries me.”

I really love the humility and honesty of this.


Pastor and Author Brian Zahnd has written:

We are generally more accustomed to defend Christianity in terms of its truth and goodness.

But beauty also belongs to the Christian faith. And beauty has a way of sneaking past our defenses and speaking to us in unique ways.

To a generation suspicious of truth claims and unconvinced by moral assertions, beauty has a surprising allure. And everything about Jesus Christ is beautiful! His life, his miracles, his grace, his teaching—even his death, and certainly his resurrection—they are all inimitably beautiful.

A Christianity enchanted by this beauty, formed by this beauty, and reflecting this beauty, has the opportunity to present to a skeptical and jaded world an aspect of the gospel that has been too rare for far too long. Where truth and goodness fail to win an audience, beauty may once again captivate and draw those it enchants into the kingdom of saving grace. It is possible to tell the Christian story in terms of beauty, because the story of Jesus Christ is breathtakingly beautiful.

On November 13, 2010 the eighty voice Chorus of Niagara gave a surprise performance of the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah in the food court at the Seaway Mall in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Unsuspecting shoppers are eating their fast food lunches in a place that seems infinitely removed from the sacred and beautiful. Then a young woman with a cell phone pressed to her ear stands to her feet and begins to sing the first melodious strains of the Hallelujah chorus. She is joined by a man who moments earlier had been eating his Arby’s lunch. Then what appears to be a mall custodian joins the growing chorus. Eventually all eighty voices of the choir are performing an exquisite rendition of Handel’s masterpiece. The shoppers in the food court are stunned. Some capture the moment on their cell phones. Others rise to join the time honored tradition of standing for the Hallelujah chorus. Some simply sit with faces full of wonder, while others wipe away tears. All are witnesses to a miracle—the modern banality of a shopping mall food court has been transformed into a cathedral of astonishing beauty.

A local photography company recorded the surprise performance in the Seaway Mall and posted it online. They hoped it might be viewed by as many as fifty thousand people. But within weeks it had been viewed tens of millions of times!

Perhaps the thing that makes the video somewhat amusing is also what makes it deeply moving—its incongruence. The juxtaposing of high art and a shopping mall, the surprise of sacred music in a food court, seems to have a strange influence upon us. Why? As modern people do we harbor a deep-seated fear that we are losing all beauty?

We have technology, convenience, security and a measure of prosperity, but where is the beauty? Where is the beauty that we know we cannot really live without? With this as our latent fear, a choir appearing out of nowhere and performing sacred Baroque music in a shopping mall is not unlike what the Gospel of Luke describes at the birth of Christ—

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

This “random act of culture” in Ontario is a perfect metaphor for how the church should position itself in the world. Instead of angry protesters shaking our fist at a secular culture, we are to be joyful singers transforming the secular with the sacred. Instead of alienated separatists sequestered in Christian enclaves, we are to transform food courts into cathedrals by our song.

The church is to sing the melody of Christ in the malls of meaninglessness and once again astonish the modern world with the beauty of the gospel. Theologian Yves Congar advocates the idea of the church, not in protest or isolation to the world, but as the saving presence of Christ within the world.

The Church is not a special little group, isolated, apart, remaining untouched amidst the changes of the world. The Church is the world as believing in Christ, or, what comes to the same thing, it is Christ dwelling in and saving the world by our faith.

Our task is not to protest the world into a certain moral conformity, but to attract the world to the saving beauty of Christ. We do this best, not by protest or political action, but by enacting a beautiful presence within the world.

The Western church has had four centuries of viewing salvation in a mechanistic manner, presenting it as a plan, system or formula. It would be much better if we would return to viewing salvation as a song we sing. The book of Revelation (from which George Frideric Handel found the lyrics for his Hallelujah chorus) doesn’t have any plans or formulas, but it has lots of songs. The task of the church is to creatively and faithfully sing the songs of the Lamb in the midst of a world founded upon the beastly principles of greed, decadence, and violence.

What is needed is not an ugly protest, but a beautiful song; not a pragmatic system, but a transcendent symphony. Why? Because God is more like a musician than a manager, more like a composer than a clerk keeping ledgers.

God is more like a cantor who chants his Creation into existence and rejoices everlastingly over its beautiful harmony. His song continues, and its melody moves and inspires humankind to restore beauty and harmony to a Creation that is fallen and misshapen.

Sin and Satan have stolen from humanity the song we were meant to sing with our Creator. We are bereft of beauty and missing melody. We are left with little more than inane Muzak in the malls of meaninglessness.

It is into this world that the Son of God comes singing his song. The Singer invites us to join him in his song. To sing with the Son of God the beautiful song he brings is to join the company of the redeemed. It is the beauty that saves the world.

 *     *     *

Today, I want to tell you that God is even better than you have imagined. More beautiful than you thought. More full of pure and eternal love than the human mind can grasp.

As the sons of Korah have written in song…

“God, you have been so so so very good to us in the past and we’re kinda wondering about these things going on right now but then we remembered—you will do it all again and again.”

—Maybe we could be encouraged to praise God for what God has done.

—And maybe it is OK, no… even good to acknowledge the reality of present challenges.

—And maybe, just maybe we might remember and trust that what God has done before, God is sure to do again.

What God has done before, God is sure to do again.

What God has done before, God is sure to do again.

What God has done before, God is sure to do again.

Love, thy will be done.

Love, thy will be mine.



POSTSCRIPT: I read today (Monday) that Frederick Buechner has died. He was 96 and is one of my favorite authors. Katy Perry, not so much.



I am a husband, father, pastor, leader & reader. I love God, love people & love life.

2 Comments to The Sermon That Did Not Record Which Had Katy Perry and Frederick Buechner In It

  1. Brian, this is a beautiful message – lyric and replete with hopeful imagery. My favorite: “The Kingdom of God is where our best dreams come from and our truest prayers.”

    My hope is that one day you and the team will publish your entire series on the Psalms. This part of the Bible is akin to God’s landscape of humanity, planted with constant reminders of his faithfulness. We don’t spend enough time with them.

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