The year of ‘deo volente’

In acts of love, joy breaks through isolation and loss with hope for a world made new

THIS WAS HOW WE PLANNED IT — Mennonite Central Committee’s Great Winter Warm-up in January was one of the few MCC centennial events held as scheduled in 2020. Pictured are International Volunteer Exchange Program participants Gabriela Furman of Brazil and Nsofwa Kaseketi of Zambia working on a comforter in Kidron, Ohio. — Jennifer Steiner/MCC THIS WAS HOW WE PLANNED IT — Mennonite Central Committee’s Great Winter Warm-up in January was one of the few MCC centennial events held as scheduled in 2020. Pictured are International Volunteer Exchange Program participants Gabriela Furman of Brazil and Nsofwa Kaseketi of Zambia working on a comforter in Kidron, Ohio. — Jennifer Steiner/MCC

Deo volente, “God willing,” is a Latin phrase one can add to any statement about “future plans” (which is redundant, as one of my English teachers liked to point out).

If you’re writing to someone who knows what it means, you can abbreviate: “I’ll see you soon, D.V.”

The phrase comes from James 5:13-16, which warns of boasting about tomorrow: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.’ Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. . . . Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance.”

Looking back on 2020: D.V., indeed.

Searching the January and February issues of Mennonite World Review and The Mennonite for our year in review feature (print edition), it felt like we should have inserted D.V. all over the place.

All those “future plans” felt solid at the time. D.V. never occurred to us.

Were we boasting in arrogance?

After a year of cancellations, isolation, separation and loss, the words of James ring true: “Come now, you who [speak of the future with confidence]. . . . You do not even know what tomorrow will bring.”

After pricking our bubble of certainty, James offers a prescription for our time: “Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. . . . Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance” (5:7, 11).

Inspiration to persevere comes not only from Scripture but from Anabaptists around the world. We hear an echo of James in the words of Erwin Mirabal, a Mennonite pastor and conference president in Venezuela who coordinated COVID-19 relief for his church until he became infected and died in August.

According to a report from Mennonite World Conference, Mirabal said: “We pray to the Lord for strength to endure and not resign ourselves, confidence to keep our work in the midst of adversity, willingness to continue proclaiming the gospel . . . and to experience [God’s] shalom.”

Mirabal’s prayer speaks for all of us in this pandemic year.

Choosing quotes to sum up the year, two with the word “joy” stood out, and not only because they fit this issue’s theme of “joy to the world.”

One is by California pastor Cristobal Aleman, who said a COVID-19 Relief Fund grant brought joy.

The other is by Mennonite Central Committee consultant Vivian Bertrand, who saw the joy that people in Malawi felt as they received food after losing their homes and crops to a cyclone.

And then, newly reported in this issue, Congolese Pastor Seraphin Kutumbana says of receiving COVID-19 relief funds from Mennonite World Conference: “What a joy it is for the brothers and sisters to feel themselves a part of the larger Men­nonite family.”

Yes, even now there is joy when people band together to push back the darkness with acts of love and generosity.

What kind of joy is this? At a time when some of the usual sources of delight are withheld from us, we may find that this joy is more than mere happiness.

Perhaps it encompasses the complex emotion of Mary’s song when the birth of a child is foretold: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47).

Mary’s joy includes remembering the lowly who long to be lifted up and the hungry who cry out for good things. She can see a future when a broken world is restored.

Our own yearning for the Savior’s reign finds voice in the hymn “Joy to the World” — which is, in fact, not about the birth of Christ but his Second Coming. It envisions the entire creation made new, without sin or sorrow or thorns. This is the best of all future plans, and God is willing.

Paul Schrag

Paul Schrag

Paul Schrag is editor of Anabaptist World. Read More

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