A Reader’s Theater of John 4:5-42
- Narrator: DAN G.
- Jesus: TODD G.
- Samaritan Woman: KELLIANNE W.
- The set is composed of 3 chairs, facing the congregation, in front of the altar table, in a semi-circular arrangement
- Cast is seated, each reading from the script
- Cast are amplified by microphone
- There are no props or costumes
DAN: Jesus came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her,
TODD: “Give me a drink.”
DAN: (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.)
KELLIANNE: “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?”
DAN: (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)
TODD: “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.”
KELLIANNE: “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?”
TODD: “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”
KELLIANNE: “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
TODD: “Go, call your husband, and come back.”
KELLIANNE: “I have no husband.”
TODD: “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!”
KELLIANNE: “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”
TODD: “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
KELLIANNE: “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.”
TODD: “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”
DAN: Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?”
Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people,
KELLIANNE: “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”
DAN: They left the city and were on their way to him.
Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them,
TODD: “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”
DAN: So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?”
TODD: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
DAN: Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony,
KELLIANNE: “He told me everything I have ever done.”
DAN: So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”
March 15, 2020
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
Rush United Methodist Church
There are times the Gospel lesson
Just shocks me
With a new awareness,
With a new revelation,
With a new way of being presented;
Like in the form of a Reader’s Theater.
What new have we learned from this familiar story from John?
I’ve read and heard many sermons based on the Woman at Jacob’s Well
Where the preacher expounded at length
About this woman
Who came from a morally corrupt background,
Met Jesus at the well,
And had her sins forgiven.
I may have even preached a few of those sermons, myself.
Did anyone present today,
Who just experienced the proclamation of the Gospel,
Hear a statement proclaiming this woman was a sinner?
Did anyone hear Jesus forgiving her
This woman wasn’t morally corrupt!
She had been widowed or abandoned
By no fault of her own
By five …
…. Count them …
By five different men.
This woman wasn’t a sinner seeking forgiveness.
This un-named woman at the well was a victim of men who treated her like property.
She was abandoned, isolated, marginalized, dehumanized.
There are times the Gospel
Just shocks us.
So, if this isn’t a narrative about sin and forgiveness,
What is this previously-assumed-to-be-familiar Gospel passage about?
In the preceding chapter of John
We heard last Sunday about Jesus in Jerusalem
Being visited under cover of night by Nicodemus,
A leader of the Jews.
Jesus is in the seat of power,
Being visited by the personification of power.
That narrative ends with one of Jesus’ most memorable statements:
“God so loved the world …”
Today, Jesus gives us a glimpse of what that world looks like.
He’s traveled north, into rural Samaria,
Meeting a woman
Who the world thought of as property.
She was a Samaritan, mixed race, abandoned, widowed, and marginalized.
She was the personification of someone who has no power.
The contrast …
Samaritan woman v. Jesus …
Powerless v. All Powerful God of Creation …
couldn’t be more profound.
Jacob’s well is significant.
Jacob met Rachael here.
In the days before Tinder, Match Dot Com, and online dating,
This is where people came together to socialize, network, and, yes, to flirt.
The local water source was where people congregated.
Who has no name
Was at the well
To not only draw water,
But also seeking something else.
She hoped to find a friend.
She is seeking opportunities to belong.
She is searching for someone or a group of people
That will add value to her lonely, isolated, tragic life.
And it is here,
At Jacob’s well,
That she meets Jesus.
There are times the Gospel
Is just shocking.
In the Gospel of Matthew we have heard Jesus identified
On multiple occasions
As the Son of God.
At his baptism,
At his transfiguration,
We’ve heard the voice of God pronounce,
“This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
There are no such pronouncements in the Gospel of John.
There are, however, famous “I Am” statements,
The first of which occurs here:
“The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.””
“I am” harkens back to Hebrew scriptures,
To our Jewish heritage,
To the mountain where God encountered Moses.
“I Am who I Am” the Lord proclaims.
Since then, “I Am” is shorthand for Yahweh,
For the Creator and Lord of all.
John takes “I Am” and runs with it:
“I am the Good Shepherd”
“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”
“I am the Vine, you are the branches”
Today’s Gospel from John is the first pronouncement of Jesus’ identity.
We not only learn who Jesus is,
Yahweh, the Creator, and Lord of all,
John reveals why Jesus has become God in the flesh.
The one and only time the Gospel of John uses the word “Savior”
Is found right here in verse 42:
The Samaritans … “said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.””
This narrative from the Gospel of John
Is a Rosetta Stone for his theology;
The belief of the Early Church community
That sprung up around the Apostle John.
John identifies Jesus as God
And reveals his foundational theme
Of why he has come:
Jesus has come to be
The Savior of the world.
Jesus is calling us to a new understanding of “Savior” and “Salvation.”
Salvation is more than one-dimensional salvation from death.
Salvation is more than two-dimensional being saved into than eternal life.
The Savior of the world brings three-dimensional salvation
By leading us from isolation and marginalization
Into friendships, relationships, and community,
With God and with one another.
God’s power doesn’t come from force or violence,
It comes from love.
God’s love might be academically explained
To people of power,
In positions of power,
In places of power.
But God’s love is experienced,
Poured out as life-giving living water
To people who have no power
Who exist on the fringes
Who, through no fault of their own,
Have been kicked to the side of the road, abandoned,
Left for dead.
This woman is searching for relationship
Jesus gives her relationship, and more.
A major criticism of younger adults,
Millennials and GenX-ers,
Is that the Church has lost its relevance;
That we love God,
But that we’ve forgotten to love our neighbors.
The salt has lost its flavor.
The power has gone out and so has the light.
“Go to church on Sunday
But forget about Jesus the rest of the week”
Is a biting, but astute, well-earned observation.
Why isn’t the Church feeding the hungry,
Instead of writing a check?
Why isn’t the Church building a wheelchair ramp
For a neighbor newly immobilized,
Instead of hosting a Bible Study or gathered for a meeting?
Why isn’t the Church standing up and speaking out
On behalf of the environment;
Against racism, homophobia, and antisemitism?
Instead, many see the Church as judgmental, uncaring, and unconcerned.
Jesus is what younger adults,
Millennials and GenX-ers have been waiting for all along.
Jesus goes to this woman and rescues her
Like a lifeguard on Bay Watch.
Just as Jesus goes,
So too should the Church.
Just as Jesus swings,
So too should we.
Break out the swim trunks, Ray Bans, and get into the lifeguard stand.
One by one, the world needs to be saved.
We’re deployed by our Lifeguard in Chief;
To swim down from behind
Those caught in the undertows of life.
Bring them back to shore and
Revive them with the breath of the Spirit.
Salvation is a saturation of love.
This essential, foundational passage from the Gospel of John
Prods us to go with love,
With God’s love, and
Use it to save the world.
Use God’s love to
Make healthy relationships,
Founded upon Christ,
the solid rock upon which we stand.
Save the powerless.
Rescue them back from the margins
And give of yourselves.
Offer friendship, relationship, companionship.
Keep a lookout for those everyone else misses:
Often the last, least, lost, and left behind.
Lead them to Jesus Christ.
The concluding point that is important to make
Is to recognize the result of this woman being saved by the Savior:
She runs back to town and tells everyone
“everything I have ever done.”
The Samaritan villagers were so convinced of her witness
They came to Jesus.
They sought Him out.
They invited Christ into their lives
They asked him to stay in their homes for two days!
And Jesus did!
“We know this is true!” They witnessed in-turn.
Jesus “is truly the Savior of the world.”
This is what the salvation of Jesus Christ does to people’s lives.
Salvation snatches people from loneliness, isolation, powerlessness, and the margins,
Gives and receives life-giving relationships,
Nurtured by Christ’s living water.
Salvation results in conversion, discipleship, and witness.
Our local church (little c)
And our catholic Church (big C)
Is alive and well today,
In part, because of the salvation of this woman by Jacob’s well,
Her encounter with Jesus,
Her testimony to her fellow Samaritans.
We are alive and well today because
her continued testimony
Has trickled down,
Generation upon generation,
To us today.
Because of a woman’s witness,
So, too, dearly beloved, salvation has come to you and me.
Continue the legacy of Christ’s salvation.
Reach out with his love.
Reach out with Christ’s love to the edge
That’s where the marginalized are found.
Reach out to save another …
And another …
And another …
That, one day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess
That Jesus Christ is Lord;
the Savior of the world.