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Posted June 30, 2005

Book: After Baptism: Shaping the Christian Life
Author: John P. Burgess
Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, pp.155

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

In After Baptism, scholar and author John Burgess explores the distinctive qualities of Christian identity by demonstrating how baptism, the Eucharist, and the commandments are basic points of orientation for Christians. He challenges the church and its members to identify and claim key practices and disciplines of faith to deepen baptismal identity and give the Christian life solid form today.

“Baptism, yes — but the what?” Burgess writes in his introduction. “The church will truly be church only when it lives by the orienting power of the Holy Spirit. The church dare not abandon its children to the whims of this age. It must baptize its babies, and having baptized them, must seek to shape them over a lifetime in the way of Jesus Christ.”

An Excerpt from the Book:

Bonhoeffer believed that no human act was more difficult than making confession. A person who confesses is sins is acknowledging that he is not what he would like to believe about himself — or what he would like others to believe about him. One’s pride suddenly likes exposed. The practice of confession demands mot of a person when he confesses his sins not in general, but concretely — and not simply to himself or even to God, but to another person. Nothing is more humbling, even humiliating, than letting another see our failings. And nothing is more liberating than hearing the Word of forgiveness that the brother or sister in Christ can offer us.

Bonhoeffer recognized that the practice of confession can easily be distorted. The temptation of insincerity faces those who make confession, and those who hear confession have to resist the temptation to us what they now know against the one who makes the confession, to dominate him or her. But Bonhoeffer also insisted that the Lord’s supper could not be celebrated with integrity unless the community had prepared itself through self-examination. When Bonhoeffer recommended to the seminarians that they practice confession, many of them worried that he was being too “Catholic,” and they resisted. Yet Bonhoeffer wanted confession to be regarded not as a new law but as a “breakthrough to new life.” A turning point in the community’s life came when he asked one of the seminarians to hear his confession. Before long, the whole community was following his example.

The practice of confession joins the two sacraments ---- baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Like Luther, Bonhoeffer regarded confession of sin as “the renewal of the joy of baptism.” To the degree that confession breaks our pride, we become aware once again of our identity as people who die in Christ to an old life. To the degree that we live by the forgiveness of sins, we are raised with Christ to a new life. Confession makes it possible for us to remember our identity as sons and daughters of God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Confession of sin also makes it possible for us to receive the Supper, which strengthens and confirms us in our baptismal identity.

Table of Contents:

1. Baptism: “For unto us a child is born

2. Commandments as identity markers: “Keep these words.”

3. Free zones: “Remember the Sabbath Day”

4. Homecoming: “Honor your father and your mother”

5. Facing the world: “You shall not murder”

6. Eucharist: “Satisfy us with your love”