One of my favorite genres of movies is the comic book movie. Recent blockbusters featuring Captain America, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor and their collaborative pic, the Avengers, have opened the world of ink and paper to celluloid… or whatever medium movies are shown on nowadays.
One of the best stories to go from comic book to IMAX screen is Captain America. Steve Rogers is a scrawny kid from Queens who does everything he can to do his part in winning World War II. But, no matter how many times he tries, his medical history, his lack of stature, and his weak constitution keep him out of the fight. Taking one last chance, he meets Dr. Abraham Erskine, a scientist who is more interested in Steve Roger’s heart than his body. Through a series of tests, Steve proves that he is the man to receive the benefits of Dr. Erskine’s Super Soldier Serum. Here’s a short clip of the administration of that serum:
In the scene from Captain America: The First Avenger, we see a weak, scrawny, powerless man, Steve Rogers, enter the metal “tomb” of Dr. Erskine’s machine. Through a very dramatic sequence of events, Rogers’ body is filled with the Super Soldier Serum and bombarded with “vita-rays.” He emerges from the tomb taller, faster, and stronger than before.
With his transformation, Steve Rogers’ life is forever changed. That which he longed to do the most, to do his part in World War II, becomes a real possibility. In the minutes following his metamorphosis, an agent of Hydra destroys the Brooklyn laboratory and Steve Rogers takes off after him. Captain America spends the rest of the movie taking down Hydra bases throughout the European Theater of Operations. With this gift, Steve adopts a life of service, living a new kind of life. He could have said, “Hey, look at this. I have a new body. I’m taller, fitter, more handsome. Now that I have this new body, I’m not join got do anything to hurt it or damage it. I better just stay home then. My body is perfect; no use in mingling with lesser beings.” If he did say this, it wouldn’t make much of a movie. Worse than that, it would be the complete waste of a wonderful gift.
As a Christian, I can’t watch that clip and not think of Baptism. Consider this passage on Baptism in Romans 6:4
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
As Christians, we have been joined to Christ’s death through Baptism. We have entered the tomb and who we used to be is now dead. Through Baptism, the old man, the spiritually weak, scrawny man, is put to death. In the same moment, we are joined to Christ’s resurrection. We have emerged from Christ’s tomb with a new and glorious life. The physical transformation is not quite as noticeable as it was for Steve Rogers; none of us were instantly taller. Nevertheless, we were changed. The old has gone and the new has come.
With this transformation, our lives are forever changed. As St. Paul says, “…in order that…we too might walk in newness of life.” While we won’t become a “Star-Spangled Man with a plan” running throughout Europe in a blue uniform destroying enemy fortifications, we will live a new life. We are called to a new kind of life that Christ Himself taught, a life of service and humility. A life that invites others to undergo the same transformation that we’ve received. You see, unlike the process that turned Steve Rogers into the first Super Soldier, Baptism is always repeatable. Baptism doesn’t require some special formula and metal box that shoots out “vita-rays.” As Martin Luther teaches in his Small Catechism: “How can water do such great things? Certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does these things…” Dr. Erskine’s formula is lost and never recreated; God’s formula for Baptism can be recreated through simple water and the Word.
In Baptism, every Christian is given a gift. You have been given a new life. It’s a forgiven life. It’s an everlasting life with your Father in heaven. It’s a life that can be shared with anyone through Baptism.
Do you know someone who’s always talking about living a new life? Someone who’s always complaining about their life now? Use this scene from a common part of current culture to talk about new life. While people may not be familiar with what the Bible teaches about the transformation of Holy Baptism, they probably know about the transformation of Steve Rogers. This story gives us a great way to brings God’s salvation story to them in a way that they’ll understand. It could be the beginning of a great conversation.