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Sunday, July 06, 2008

All About Ya'll

Have you spent much time in the South? My travels have taken (briefly) to such states as Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida. On those trips, I have enjoyed the southern hospitality at local restaurants. Where else can you go and have a complete stranger call you honey, sweetie, and darling? But without a doubt, my favorite expression is the "ya'll." "How ya'll doin'? Can I get ya'll anythin' else? Ya'll come back now, ya hear?"

When you compare the English language to other languages of the world, you may begin to think that Southerners are on to something. In every other language that I know of, a clear distinction is made between you (singular) and you (plural). They look different. They sound different. They are spelled different. But in English, we just have plain ole "you."

So what's the big deal? Well, unless you are a brilliant linguist, my guess is you read a Bible printed in English. And because of our western mindset and our individuals-emphasizing culture, when you see the word "you", you naturally read "me." So we read "Jesus loves you." "Oh great," we think, "that's neat! Jesus loves me!" This is fine and good, (and true), but we often read singular "you" even in places where the Bible intends plural.

Nowhere is this more true perhaps than in the Lord's Supper. I believe that one of the main messages we are to take out of the Lord's Supper is an emphasis on "ya'll." Consider these things. Jesus intentionally initiated this practice at a time when all of the disciples were present and listening. He uses plural language throughout the account. And from its very earliest practice, the Christian tradition of the Lord's Supper has been one of plurality- celebrated when people are gathered together. So many other disciplines can be practiced alone- worship, prayer, Scripture reading- but not the Lord's Supper. The only concept we have of this practice is in the group setting.

Why is this? Why such an emphasis on the group activity? It's because the death of Jesus was for everyone. The redeeming work of Jesus on the cross was for "ya'll." And because it was, the way that we remember and honor the work of Jesus is to honor the "ya'll."

In the book of Corinthians, Paul wrote to a church that was having big issues with the Lord's Supper. He said they needed to examine themselves because they were eating the Lord's Supper with sin in their hearts. We tend to think of personal struggles, but Paul had something more in mind. The specific sin Paul had in mind is that the Christians there were eating in a way that was unloving towards their brothers and sisters. They were eating the Lord's Supper while being unkind to those who were with them, and so Paul says they are dishonoring what the Lord has done. In other words, in order to remember Christ appropriately, we must honor "ya'll" accordingly.

So when you celebrate the Lord's Supper, answer these questions. How am I doing at loving my Christian brother and sister? How committed am I to the body of Christ at my church? How deeply am I living in loving relationships with others Christ has called? Because when we take the cup and break the bread, the way in which we remember Christ is to honor the "ya'll."

You're on a journey, but you are not alone. Ya'll are with me!

Nick

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