Having conducted a fairly detailed study of the openings of the Pauline epistles myself , I was pleased but not particularly surprised by the material in our retired pastor’s sermon yesterday about the message of the greetings and salutations of the Bible’s letters. Rather than conducting a doctrinally heavy message as might be expected, he took a different turn in his message and discussed the way that the openings of letters express the sentiments and wishes of the writer with regards to the audience. Over and over again in the epistles of the New Testament, we see the writers pointing to the importance and the indivisibility of God the Father and Jesus Christ with regards to the grace and peace they represent and give to believers. Galatians 1:3 is a representative example: “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.” It should be noted that this comes through even in other languages, like in the Esperanto New Testament, which reads for this same passage: “Graco al vi kaj paco de Dio, la Patro, kaj de nia Sinjoro Jesuo Kristo,” which has the same meaning as it does in English, wishing upon readers the grace that comes from God the Father and Jesus Christ, with the implicit hope that readers will be able to enjoy the same sort of indivisibility in their own lives with God and with others.
As a writer, I have definitely struggled mightily to convey my wishes to my audience, to shake hands with them and to allow them to easily come to terms with me . Examples of this problem in my own writing abound, but perhaps the most unfortunate example of this was where I wrote an apology letter to someone and despite beginning the letter with an apology for the difficulty of my note being read and my own struggles in writing handwritten notes, the letter was read rather disastrously as a somewhat aggressive love letter instead of an apology that was owed to a young woman and paid at the first opportunity. Yet this example, as tragic as it was to both me and the unlucky recipient of the letter, is not an isolated problem. I remember one time writing a rather humorous and mischievous note to a minister about a sermon he had given about a problem he was unsuccessfully wrestling with in respecting authority that he did not agree with, and his reply was a rather caustically expressed wish for me to drop dead seventy times seven. I hope that Paul did not have the problem of his tone and intent being so frequently and painfully misunderstood, as a wish for grace and peace is something that most of us, myself definitely included would want to hear from anyone sending us a note or letter, and that we would hopefully wish to express in any of our correspondence with others.
As might be expected, given the general approach of our speaker, the relevance of the message had a lot of personal implications for much of the audience, and not only myself. The fact that he focused quite clearly on the relational aspects of the writings, in the way that the bond of God the Father and Jesus Christ served as a model for human relationships signified that he was trying to indirectly address many relational issues among the audience. His comments about his immense respect for his wife for her complementary abilities was very heartfelt and his statement that people who marry well grow together to the point where they physically resemble each other after several decades was a reminder even to those of us who are not married nor ever have been that if we live well as believers that we will start to resemble each other more because of our shared commitment to the same godly way of life. God willing, we will have a family resemblance to our heavenly Father and elder brother in a way that is somewhat painful for us to have family resemblances in this present evil world.
I must admit with some regret that I was very anxious about how yesterday would go. I expected a fairly stressful evening, and I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised with how everything went. The singing went well, there was enjoyable conversation, good food, and a general sense of pleasant banter and interaction regardless of who I was talking with, whether it was trying to solve the riddle of whose glass made a Psych reference I was unfamiliar with, or whether it was forming a men’s ensemble piece with three other gentlemen to sing in the future for special music where we quickly divvied up the parts (I took the high tenor part, the person whose idea it was took the lead part, one of the people in whose house we were at for the evening took the baritone, and the only real bass singer we have among the teens and youngish adults took the bass part) or whether it was chatting with one of those same young men about our inner Walmartian, or chatting with a group where I was the only gentleman towards the end of my three hours there. I must admit candidly that I did not expect the evening to go so well and in such a relaxed manner. Now, if only I can adjust my expectations with some interactions accordingly, I will feel a lot less anxiety about being around those who appear to behave with a large degree of goodwill and friendliness, the same general approach I seek with others, and find grace and peace in enjoying time spent with those brethren of mine whose common interests with my own continually throw us together.
 See, for example: