"But he had to go through Samaria." - John 4:4
Algorithms are everywhere. Google has one that knows I'm searching in Florida. The Netflix algorithm has discerned my distaste for romantic comedy, and Facebook's shrewdly shows me ads for religion or beer. My algorithms know me, know my likes and dislikes. Thanks to them, I need never waste time on anything unfamiliar or disagreeable.
If Jesus planned his travel by algorithm, he could have skipped Samaria entirely. Siri would have rerouted him, knowing that "Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans." This whole awkward business about ex-husbands and conflicting worship sites could have been avoided. In fact, he could have sidestepped all those clumsy trips into enemy territory, bumbling onto unfriendly soil as if he relished being faced with difference, foreignness, challenge.
Which, of course, he did.
Jesus invites us, too, out of the prescribed patterns of our lives and onto a journey that leads to the heart of our own personal Samarias. He calls us to travel to those places where comfort and familiarity fall away, where we may work and worship with those who do not look or think as we do, places where we will be confronted, convicted, and changed-- but also renewed and refreshed by cool, clear draughts of living water.
Algorithms are great for finding the things we already love, but to make room in our hearts for something new, we have to go through Samaria.
You know me better than any algorithm. Send me on a heart-expanding journey into "enemy territory."
Vince Amlin is Associate Minister at the United Church of Gainesville, Gainesville, Florida.