There is a popular movie out right now on Netflix called The Irishman. Directed by Martin Scorsese, it is a gritty, dramatic film, that was nominated on Sunday for five Golden Globes including Best Motion Picture.
The movie is about American mobsters. Who better to play mobsters on screen than people like Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci, whose roles in movies like The Godfather and Goodfellas are legendary? All three actors star in this movie. It follows the life and times of powerful Teamster Jimmy Hoffa (played by Pacino). I vaguely knew about Jimmy Hoffa before this film. But as the movie says, there was a time in 1950's America when Hoffa was as famous as Elvis.
As you would expect of a mob movie, it is violent. Early in the movie however, we see these mainly Italian or Irish mobsters and their families go…to church. Why? It is time to have their young children baptized.
Fans of The Godfather probably saw these scenes as a nod to that movie, in which hardened, powerful mafia leaders are shown at the baptismal font with their children…in between scenes of murder, revenge, and cruelty. Why? Because for them, taking your children to be baptized was what you did if you wanted to look like respectable, upright people.
But what is baptism, really? Holy baptism is the way you and I enter into a new way of life. A life shaped by Jesus. A life that treats all other lives as worthy of dignity, value, and love. Baptism is so much more than a nice ritual. It is God’s way of joining us to the saving death and resurrection of Christ (Romans 6:4). Our baptism is how we know that we have become salt and light, to use Jesus’ own words in Matthew 5:13: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt losses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?”
How can you stay “salt-like” as a baptized person? By remembering that Christianity is a way of life, a path of holiness, a lifestyle that is guided not by our own pursuit of power and wealth…but by worship, prayer, and love. And most of all by remembering God’s grace filled promise to you: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).
Netflix’s The Irishman has given us a few scenes from a baptismal ceremony. But what the world really longs for is the love that flows from baptized people…like you and me. As we celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord on January 12, come to worship with God’s salty, beloved people!