I spent the first six years of my ministry in the deep South. Like any mission work I learned the indigenous language. "Fixin' to," means that you are preparing to do something. "I mighta coulda," means that there was a time in which you considered doing something that you did not end up doing. "Bless her heart" and "He's a great guy," are what you say to preface a particularly nasty insult. "Pop," does not enter into the Southern lexicon in any semantic range associated with carbonated beverages. "Sweet" is never used to describe "tea" because to do so would be redundant. And then there is the go to word used by anyone attempting to mimic a Southern dialect, the multisyllabic use of "y'all."
When we moved back to Virginia (still southern but not deep southern) and unpacked our moving boxes I found that vast amounts of my southern lexicon were left in Mississippi. But I still use the word, "y'all." It isn't for the sake of nostalgia. I appreciate that Southerners see the need to differentiate between the single and plural pronouns in the second person. You do understand what I'm saying, don't you? For example, the majority use of the word "you" in the New Testament is in the plural form. But what then happens when your average Christian reads through an epistle from Paul or a teaching of Jesus and reads second person singular pronouns in all the places where the original Greek actually has a second person plural pronoun? Well, an obvious result is that our "y'all" avoiding English reader begins to read the New Testament and its exhortations as if it was primarily written to individuals and not to groups.
To take that a step further, this is not simply an exegetical gaffe. It feeds a rancorous individualism pervasive in our culture. A culture that coins the word "selfie," doesn't have a problem comprehending the second personal singular pronoun. But they probably do have a problem thinking of themselves as a part of a whole, a community where they find identity and hear from God, not as individuals but as a group. In a culture like that the church becomes even more important. It becomes a place where we can use personal plural pronouns with deep appreciation. It becomes a place where the husk of our individualism can be peeled back to reveal people who were never intended to live as islands. We were meant for the "y'all" of the kingdom of God. The primary place to experience that is on Sunday morning.
Will I see you there this Sunday? Will I see y'all there too?
Don't forget that our new members class starts this Sunday at 9:00 am. You can still sign-up.
This fall we'll have community groups meeting on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings.
- This Sunday we'll look at James 2:1-13. Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and a homeless man walk into church; no this isn't the beginning of a joke, it's an introduction to our sermon. You don't want to miss it.