Well, the last time I did this, I suffered a shiver-me-timbers blood sugar episode, and that left me unable to do much more than close my eyes and lean back. Then later on in the day, suffered another one, not as strong the second time, though. It did keep my pretty much shut down for the rest of the day.
BUT: now let me return to I Thess 1. Paul writes: Grace to you, and peace.
Growing up in the semi-rural South, I knew the word 'grace' first from the prayer that was said at the start of every meal. It seemed to take three forms: the rote prayers of children (God is great, God is good); the rarer times, usually at holiday meals, when it was an opportunity for someone to be long-winded; and finally the occasions I remember as a young teen when my step-father would use the occasion to scold me to God. Now maybe he wasn't doing that; sure felt like it. But, whatever form it took, it was a prayer said before a meal, and that CAN'T be what Paul was writing here.
The second way I knew the word 'grace' was from the hymn. First verse sung everywhere, at all times. For an invitational hymn, which to those of us in the Baptist Church meant either a time for an initial profession of faith, a re-dedication, or a transfer of fellowship, OR it meant that you were about ready to leave and go get some lunch, we'd sing the first, second, and last verses. Or if we were having a revival, we'd just keep singing it over and over...
But I don't want to put an overwhelming burden on the lyrics of a song. Yeah, maybe in the lyrics of the song, we can find out what Paul meant, when he wrote to the Church at Thessalonika, but, since I've already bitten the bullet and decided to look at the Greek, let's just go there instead.
And: it looks like it means a "a gift from God to you." Not a natural gift, like air, water, food; but a gift that was specific to the needs; a gift that was designed to make them stronger, wiser, more loving; something spiritual, but with total practical application. It wasn't specified what the gift was; it was a blank check, based on what the needs were. And, it wasn't just a 'Hope you are all doing well!' sort of greeting, either. That's covered in the rest of the letter.
I've been rolling this one around in my head. I don't think that Paul was just tossing in some extra words for form's sake. Instead, I think that what he was doing was SENDING to the church: XARIS and IRENE, grace and peace.
Look I know it's easier to type on a blog than to use a quill pen on papyrus, but this goofy cat just walked across the keyboard, and I ALMOST lost what I had written.
Maybe if Paul wrote me a letter that started "Grace" he'd give me the supernatural spiritual power to refuse the cat permission to sit on me until I finished my blog.
BUT: Yeah, I think that's kind of what he did. I think that when he wrote "Grace and Peace" he wasn't just hoping they would have peace, and that some grace would come their way. I think he was actually expecting that through the receiving and reading of the letter, the church would experience a power gift according to their need, and peace, which they certainly needed.
And I'll stop there. I've got a cat on me.