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Friday, December 19, 2014

Why I've fallen back in love with y'all

When Katie, Mason & myself moved in 2005 from the frozen tundras of Chicago, Illinois to the pollenated southern United States (Tallahassee, Florida), I made a conscious decision that I would not give in to the use of y'all - be it in conversation or correspondence. I've always taken a little extra pride in employing correct grammar (it's the English Lit major in me - we have very little practical application of our studies!). I felt grammatically free of y'all after the now four of us moved to the multicultural Cayman Islands. I even secretly harbored a few  "told-ya-so" moments when listening to some Southern American friends struggle to try to explain y'all to persons of other cultures here in Grand Cayman. 

Falling back in love with y'all. Until, that is, in the Fall of 2010 when I re-discovered the brilliance of y'all. I was reading the book of Ephesians and I was astonished to re-read multiple prayers, teachings & exhortations as addressed to more than one person (as most of the New Testament is written to churches - 2nd person plural - not individuals). But it would be easy to read all of these brilliant verses as written to individuals because while the Original Greek has an expressed grammar that communicates "you" (plural), the English language does not. The British utilized "thou" as the second person singular for some time whilst reserving "you" for 2nd person plural. That faded by the end of the 17th century though. Back to Ephesians. Consider the difference y'all makes to how God's Word to us is understood & received:

1. Y'all were dead in your trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1)
Received individually (you): My story is that I was most definitely dead & following ways of the world, but some people's story may be different - some grew up Christian.
Received corporately as a church (y'all): There is not one person who wasn't dead and running in the other direction from God before He rescued them. Not one! We all collectively share some version of the same story.

2. But now in Christ Jesus y'all who were once far off have been brought near through the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13)
Received individually (you): I've been brought near for a personal relationship to God - Father, Son, Holy Spirit - because of what Jesus did. Every day is great if it's just you and Me, JC! 
Received corporately as a church (y'all): I've been brought near for a personal relationship to God - it's personal but not individual. I've also been brought near to others to experience with them eternal fellowship with God. 

3. [I pray] that y'all, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and how long, how high and how deep is the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:17).
Received individually (you): Jesus, please fill my cup to know and experience your love as an overflow. Please also fill up Jimmy's cup that he might experience this too.
Received corporately as a church (y'all): Jesus, help us as a church body experience the overflow of your love. Jimmy & I will only experience loved pushed to its boundaries as a community - benefitting from one another's encouragements, gifts, wisdom, prayers as expressions of Your love.

4. Let know one deceive y'all with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 5:6).

Receieved individually (you): Jesus, please help me stay alert today for even the subtle lies of this world. Help me fight them off and remember they are empty promises.
Received corporately as a church (y'all): Jesus, help us as a church body fight off lies and empty promises. If one of my family members falls under deception, it could affect us all. Use me to encourage someone in the truth! Protect especially our Elders and leaders from the latest fads and false teachings.

Ephesians reminds us that Christ didn't so much die for individuals as he did for the church: "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Ephesians 5:25).
Curtain #1: Dividing mankind
from the Holy of Holies

How we went from you to y'all. By taking upon Himself the sin of the world as he died on the cross, Jesus was made unfit for His eternal community - Father, Son, Holy Spirit - "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabacthani" (Mark 15:34). His y'all was cruciformed into an alienated and isolated you. His eternal community - His forever church forsook Him. He did this to make you and I into a y'all. Remember the tearing of the temple curtain that occurred after he breathed his last (Mark 15:38)? Scholars have longed tried to figure out which curtain the gospel writers were referring to - because in the temple there were two curtains. Curtain #1: Divided the Holy of Holies from the Court of Men. This curtain kept sinners from perishing in the pure presence of a perfect God. Curtain #2: Divided the Court of Men from the Court of Women & the Court of Gentiles. It was a glorified airplane curtain dividing Coach from First Class (some of us just want to sneak a peek of what goes on in First Class). Curtain #2 symbolized that there are social divides that are not to be crossed. It is my opinion that the gospel writers are purposely vague on which curtain was torn - because they meant for their readers to consider both barriers obsolete. Through Christ's death, every dividing curtain is brought down (Ephesians 2:14). Thus, it's no longer you but y'all (you + Trinity) and it's not longer you but y'all (you + the church to which you belong).

Applying y'all to you. You are going to experience the goodness, the comfort and the encouragement of a communal God (Father, Son, HS) this Christmas Season. We can be confident of this because God works all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Such good is not simply meant for just you but for y'all! Who is your y'all with whom you will share blessing upon blessing? Who is your y'all with whom you will experience together the width, length, height, & depth of Christ's love?

This Advent Season, I've loved watching families of Sunrise light our church's Advent candles and lead us in a Reading. Doing it in the privacy of their home would suffice, but isn't it so much richer that they do this with community?! Equally, I can't wait to sing "Silent Night" on Christmas Eve. How much more full is the experience with a couple hundred family members letting their light shine forth! Maybe your y'all is comforting those in your church community who are lonely this Christmas or having a non-married member of your church to your home on Christmas morning for breakfast or to open stockings (what a blessing it would it be to even prepare for them their own stocking!).

Through Christ, we have a personal relationship with a Divine Community - Father, Son, Holy Spirit. It's meant to be personal, but it cannot stay individual. It's not meant to be. I'm just speaking the truth...y'all.

(If further interested: (1) Here's a ya'll version of the Bible!!; (2) Here's a respectable Brit who favors using y'all for the Bible; (3) Here's a longer article from a Southern-American theologian- contains extra nuggets of insight; (4) Here's an article on the Remarkable history of y'all) 

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