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Scripture text to live by


May 14, 2010
-Deborah Froese

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:16, 17

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — For Doug Klassen, Colossians 3:12-17 describes in a nutshell what it means to be a Christian. It is a passage of personal significance to him.

“You want to know how to live as a Christian? Here it is. For a grasp on the Christian ethic, this is it,” says Klassen, Senior Pastor of Foothills Mennonite Church in Calgary. “This text is deeply 'rooted' in me. It is how I choose to live everyday. When I get off track, it resets/recalibrates me to what I what I am looking to do in life.”

This rich scriptural passage is the theme text for Mennonite Church Canada Assembly 2010 where Klassen will be one of three keynote speakers. Other speakers for the June 29-July 3 event in Calgary include Gareth Brandt of Columbia Bible College and Lucy Roca, a Mennonite church planter in Quebec and former Colombian refugee.

Klassen was first captured by the spirit of this particular text in 1990, the year before he graduated from Canadian Mennonite Bible College, now Canadian Mennonite University. At that time, graduate Bryan Moyer Suderman framed his valedictorian address around this passage and as it drew to a close, he engaged all those gathered in a call and response singing of “Let the word of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

“It was an absolutely mystical moment,” Klassen says. “I don't remember his [Suderman’s] words exactly, but his challenge was to all of those graduating 'to live out our faith, doing all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ’.”

Later that same year, Klassen and his fiancée, Rose Retzlaff, chose the Colossians text for their wedding.

“Of all the texts we studied, we felt this was the one that best described what we wanted our marriage to be. Rose's dad [Peter Retzlaff] married us in the Vineland United Mennonite Church, and the words of his homily challenged us to see these verses as a guide/template for our marriage. We have done our best with this, and have a very blessed marriage!”

While some people develop mission statements or life objective statements, Klassen says he has never done so. “But if I were to co-opt a scripture passage into one that I would write for myself, it would be this one. I try to live this out when I am at home, when I am working in the congregation, when I am meeting my neighbours, and when I am coaching my son's basketball and baseball teams.

“It is not always easy. Growing up in somewhat of a hockey culture, the tendency is to want to drop the gloves rather than talk things through. But I have learned that living Colossians 3:12-17 can actually redeem situations whereas aggression and violence often serve to escalate them.”

He points to congregational life as an example. “So much in congregational conflict has to do with misunderstanding and miscommunication, with people not feeling appreciated.” Reflecting on this passage helps him to step back, take a breath and consider all sides of any conflict he encounters.

“If we as followers of Jesus would make that or whichever suitable [biblical texts] our personal mission statement texts it would really be transformative,” he says.

Klassen expresses excitement about Assembly 2010. “It will be wonderful to have the Mennonite Church Canada family descend on Calgary for those days. The hosting committee here is preparing for a superb time together.

“I believe the focus of the meetings is also incredibly important. 'Reclaiming Jesus - Gladly Wear the Name’ is so timely.” He points out that society is bombarded with mixed messages and opinions about who Jesus was and is, and “ … I also think that each of us in the church needs to ‘reclaim’ but first, understand again who Jesus is. Some say he was just a historical figure, a rabbi, a political dissonant…the New Testament identifies him as the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and God. All three names are crucial identifiers for the church to embrace at this time. Remove any of these three and we take away from who he is and we drain the power of his name.”

For more information about Mennonite Church Canada Assembly 2010 or to register as a delegate, see