Summary: A monologue featuring the Woman at the well.
Style: Dramatic. Duration: 12min
Scripture: John 4: 5-42
(coming in from the side, motioning gently to the congregation)…
Come with me. To the well. To the water. Where my story began. No. Where my new story started.
The water is deep here. Here - below - in this well. You can't see the water from above, but deep, deep below the surface is the water of life.
I have come back to this well again. This place where I found water. To this place where a stranger found me, and gave me my freedom. To this place where I found myself. I come back to remind myself of my story.
This is Jacob's well. I am connected to my ancestors here. To Jacob and his descendents centuries before my time. And so this well is mine also.
This is the well that he gave to his son Joseph. Joseph's bones are here. And to get to the water, you have to drop your bucket deep, below the place where the bones are. Below your own history. Into the history of God.
If Jacob's water is mine, so is his story. I am a Samaritan. Jacob was a Jew. We share the same ancestry. The same faith. But O, what a fork there is in the river we share! Our priest often told us how our stories are bound together, tragically, in the events of human and divine history. There have been tensions between Jews and Samaritans for hundreds of years. Since the division of the kingdom into Israel and Judah. My people are the descendents of a mixed population. The more righteous Jews have long accused us of consorting with false gods, of being corrupt spiritually. The truth is we worship the same God as they do.
For centuries our peoples have fought, though we have tried periods of reconciliation. Nothing worked. Over the years, we rebelled, taking up arms, protesting, attacking and profaning their temple. It is a sad history.
But all the while, in spite of the rejection, of being outsiders, we still held fast to the promise of a Messiah. Is that not how all people who are cast aside feel? Is that not what those who feel oppressed want? A liberator? Someone who will give them dignity, and justice, a fair chance?
Did I say Joseph's bones were buried here? Yes, my dear brother Joseph. You knew what it was like. You were sold by your own brothers into slavery. Shunned. We know your story like we know our own. This is your place. And though your bones are deep below, the story is still lived out by my people above.
But enough of the history of the Samaritans and the Jews. I will tell you my story now.
I live in Sychar, just a couple of miles from here. It is a non-descript little town. And I am a woman of no standing. Just a survivor.
I am not proud of how my life has turned out. It was not the way I had hoped it would. My mother raised me alone after my father walked out on us. One day he just up and left and never came back. That was my first rejection. And it hurt like no other. My mother became a labourer. Cleaning other people's houses. Cooking for other families, while we had little at home to eat. At times, when no work could be found, she would beg in the streets, enduring the ridicule of the community.
But my mother was a proud woman. And a woman of deep faith. She taught me to pray and never to be ashamed of my race, or of being a woman. She never let the oppression she must have felt kill her self-respect, or her hope. What did my mother hope for? What all mothers hope for, I suppose. That things would work out for her and for me. That something good would come. Did she hope, like so many others, for the Messiah? If she did, I never heard her say so. It was enough, perhaps, to believe in the God of today, and a modest tomorrow. Leave the bigger dreams to prophets and poets and priests. We would survive.
When I was a teenager, I got involved with a man. I should have listened to my mother's warnings. But love (was it love?)... It is a strange thing. It draws you in. It blurs your vision. I got pregnant. We got married. The baby did not come to term. And I was left with an emptiness inside that I will not even try to describe. My husband was left with a barren woman and a rage that he would not contain. He was mocked by his friends. "You are not a man," they said. Not a real man. He would not stand up to them, the coward. Instead he took it out on me. Coming home drunk with fury, accusing me of sleeping around, blaming himself. Blaming me. Hitting me. Again and again.
I left him, finally. Moved in with my mother, worked with her. Until she got sick and we needed more security. What else can a woman do in a society that will not respect her worth, or pay her a decent wage, but to get married? Again.
Unlucky once. Unlucky twice. My second husband, a merchant, had money, that is true. And for a while it was alright. He provided for us, and made sure my mother was cared for. But after a couple of years, he started to travel more and more, often for weeks and months at a time. No money would come home, and neither would he. Eventually, my deepest suspicions came true. He had another woman, and with her the child I could never have.
We were not out of poverty. My mother was not getting any better. And I was no longer considered young. I went to work for a family as a housekeeper. The uncle of the family took a fancy to me, though he was much older than I, and had never married. But he was a kind man, I could see that in his eyes. He would provide for me and my mother. I knew that. I agreed to marry again. The marriage lasted five years. At the end, I was caring for both him and my mother. They both died within a few months of one another.
I was left. Alone and lonely. A woman with no children, no family. In my loneliness, I sought other company, fool that I was. Somehow I could never find peace within myself. I married again. Another abuser.
And now I am living with another. We are not married, but I want it that way. I do not want to be committed to another. (pause)
Or do I? I wonder about that. A few days ago I met a man like no other. Here - at Jacob's well. It was hot and dry and dusty, and I had come to draw water. I saw him sitting in the shade. When he saw me, he asked me for a drink. I could tell right away that he was a Jew. I asked him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a Samaritan?" Could he not tell what I was? His answer puzzled me more than his request. He said, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." We talked some more. Strange conversation. Then he said, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I give will never be thirsty. The water that I give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life."
And then he asked me to go get my husband. I gasped. What should I say? I told him half the truth. "I have no husband." He said, "It is true you have no husband. You have had five husbands, and the one who are with now is not your husband."
My jaw dropped open. What stranger could possibly know such things? "Sir, I see you are a prophet." He did not deny it. But we got further into conversation. About God's holy mountain. About worshipping God in spirit and in truth. About the Messiah. All the memories I had of our priests talking about the Messiah came flooding back. All my people's aspirations for justice and acceptance. Suddenly it was like I could touch them. They were not a dream to quiet children at bedtime. They were not a rallying cry for the masses to take up arms. Hope in the Messiah was right there. Talking to me.
This man who had seen right into my soul, was speaking of the truth in a way I had never heard it before. "I know the Messiah is coming," I uttered. The stranger looked me calmly in the eyes and said, "I am he."
His friends came with food from our village. They were outraged that he should be talking with a Samaritan woman in a public place. But he ignored them, and so did I.
I ran home, leaving my water jug behind. I didn't know fully what had happened. I only knew that I had been touched by this man in a way that no man had ever touched me. Deep in my soul. He had spoken to me with respect. He had broken down the thick wall between our races, and our genders. He had risked public humiliation in order to speak to me in a public place, to speak to me at all.
And it happened here, at Jacob's well. Where the waters of our human history merge with the waters of God's salvation. I know I will come back here again, for this, to me, has become a holy place. But you do not need to come here to find the water of life. You need only talk with the one who sees into your soul, and who sets you free to be a child of God.
(c) Copyright Jim Hatherly.