The Queen's Gambit
Pastor Drew - January 4, 2021
There is a popular show out on Netflix right now called The Queen’s Gambit. It follows a young orphan, Beth Harmon, who emerges from a hard childhood to quickly become an absolute phenom at the game of chess.
My wife and I loved the show, which I won’t spoil here. Whether you’ve seen it or not, I want to lift up some themes I noticed from this successful series, especially as we arrive this week at two big days as Christians, Epiphany(January 6) and the Baptism of Jesus (January 10).
The first is that in The Queen’s Gambit chess is one of two things. It is either an obsession that players eat, drink, and breathe, or it is not. What separates Harmon and the other Grandmasters is that chess is literally what their whole world revolves around. They read books about chess, spend weekends playing chess, even dream about chess. What most of us would view as a game, they view as the center of their entire existence.
Do we view Jesus that way? One thing we see in the story of the Magi in Matthew 2, is that their whole existence is shaped by one goal: to worship Christ. If you have never read it, I invite you to take some time on Wednesday (January 6 - Epiphany) to read a poem by T.S.Eliot called “Journey of the Magi” available HERE. Eliot captures how, for the Magi, finding Jesus literally brings about a kind of death and birth for them. They are changed forever. To live as a Christian is to eat, drink, and breathe thinking about Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:20).
Asking God to help us live for Christ with the same passion, the same love, as Beth Harmon feels about chess, wouldn’t be a bad prayer to start 2021!
Secondly, I noticed how in The Queen’s Gambit there is a lot of focus on identity. Who am I? Chess is a world largely occupied by men, and the show lifts up Beth Harmon as a woman who breaks the barriers. Some players earn the title of Chess Grandmaster. Yet what becomes clear is that even as Beth and others climb higher in success, success is no guarantee of what every human being wants most…. happiness.
Which is what the Baptism of our Lord (January 10) reminds us of. As good as worldly success, titles, and skill can be, happiness comes from a deeper place. Jesus happiness begins with hearing our Heavenly Father speak a word of grace, as God says to him “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Mark1:11) God speaks that same word to you and me.
And then happiness continues as Jesus makes his entire life a gift for others. Serving, caring, practicing compassion, and pouring out the love of God to the world. Eventually Beth Harmon locates happiness too. Not in chess victories… of which she has many…but in sharing her life with others.
This week, I encourage you to join me in prayer for 2021. Let’s ask God to give us even greater hunger to know Him better. And then ask God to pour out His love through us!
Happy New Year!
PS: If you’ve seen the show, what themes did you notice? Please share your comments.