"'Don't be afraid,' David said to him, 'for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan.'" - 2 Samuel 9:7
The Shack is due for release in theaters on March 3. Some will love it, some will boycott it, and some will ignore it. If it's like the novel I read ten years ago, I will use it as a tool to teach that what God craves is intimacy with those created in his own image.
William P. (Paul) Young's novel relates the story of a man named Mack who experiences an unimaginable tragedy, the murder of his daughter. God invites Mack to meet him at an abandoned cabin deep in the woods.
Young's personal story is what The Shack is all about. He never had a child murdered; his faith was murdered when he was a child. Born into a strict missionary family he overheard cannibalistic tribesmen discuss whether they would kill his parents, so he distanced himself from them. Sexually abused in a missionary boarding school, he learned he could trust no one. For decades, he feared God, maintaining a safe distance, certain that his performance never measured up.
Then came an eleven-year span in his life where he dealt with the pain head on, and learned that what God longs to get through to us is this: "I just want you to be with me and discover that our relationship is not about performance or having you please me."
Mephibosheth, the disabled grandson of Israel's King Saul, had reason to be terrified of the new monarch, David. He trembled in the king's court until he learned that what David wanted was not to punish him for what his grandfather had done, but to feed and house him out of pure grace.
That's what Mack learns in The Shack – that what God craves is for us to eat at his table and find a depth of intimacy with God made possible because Christ comes to meet us in our shack.
O God, free me from every barrier that keeps me from embracing your invitation to hold on to grace and overflow that grace into the lives of others, through Jesus Christ, Amen.
Bob Thompson is Pastor of Corinth Reformed Church (UCC) in Hickory, North Carolina, and President of Faithful and Welcoming Churches of the UCC. He posts sermons and other reflections on his blog, corinthpastorbob.com.