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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Friday, September 07, 2007


Luke 9:23-25

“Akaloo, Y’all”

James McTyre

Lake Hills Presbyterian Church (USA)

Rally Day

“If any of you want to be my followers…” Jesus said. If any of you have ever thought, “Gee, I wish that preacher would just tell us what we need to know in plain English,” here it is. If you want to be a follower of Jesus Christ, here, from the mouth of Jesus himself, is what you have to do:

One: Forget about yourself. Two: Take up your cross each day. Three: Follow him. There you go. Three simple steps: Lose yourself. Find your cross. Follow Jesus. That’s about as straightforward as it gets. Lose yourself, find your cross, follow Jesus. OK, God bless you, let’s go to lunch.

But, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I let you off that easy. And if the three steps of following Jesus were as easy to do as they are to say, the church would have gone out of business centuries ago. Lose yourself, find your cross, follow Jesus. It sounds simple, but doing it gets complicated real fast.


In scripture, there are heroic stories of saints. They dropped their nets, walked away from their families, and followed Jesus. You’ve probably heard stories of modern-day saints, like Mother Teresa and such, who walked away from wealth and success in order to follow Jesus. You may even have met someone, you might even be someone, who has taken up “extreme following.” Thank goodness for saintly examples like these. Maybe if we admire the saints enough, some of their saint-stuff will rub off on us.

Because most of us can’t just up and walk away from work, from families or from school. We might have days when we’d like to. But it’s not usually Christ we’re thinking of following; maybe more like the Antichrist. And we’re not thinking about losing ourselves, either. We’re thinking of losing the people or the stuff that’s strangling the life out of us. We’re thinking of buying a Harley, cranking the RPMs and spinning donuts on top of the cell phone going crunch, crunch, crunch under the tires as we crank up the Stones, pop a wheelie and spit gravel down the highway, yelling, “Eat my dust!” Maybe it’s different for you. The point is, we think we can find ourselves if everybody else would just get lost. In such times, though, the bottom line is we don’t want to follow Jesus. We just want to find ourselves, whatever that means.

The truth of life’s cycles is more subtle, and less straightforward than we’d like. It only takes a single breath for Jesus to tell us, one-two-three, “Lose yourself, find your cross, follow me.” Jesus makes it sound simple, but it’s hard – really hard – to juggle all three of these steps and keep them all in the air at the same time.


I love the new curriculum for kids and adult Sunday School that Cheryl has found. It’s called, “Akaloo,” and it comes from the Greek word, akoluthein, which means to “follow.” The lessons are written by people who’re alive – and by that I mean people who are spiritually alive, trying to live and share their faith in 2007. The music is totally awesome, perhaps even rad, phat, def – or some other adjective I don’t fully understand. (I know I am both phat and def, but not in the way the kids describe their music.) The best part about Akaloo is that it has so much energy. Being a follower of Christ takes energy. You can’t do it on your duff.

Akaloo-ing – following Jesus – requires energy. All three parts of Jesus’ simple formula call for action: Lose yourself, find your cross, follow me. Lose, find, follow. Jesus’ prescription is built around verbs, things you have to do, that nobody else can do for you. What complicates this three-part formula, is that you can’t just jump ahead to “follow me” without also losing yourself and finding your cross. Like the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the three parts of being a disciple are distinct but inseparable.

Some of us are pretty good at step one, losing ourselves. The stereotype of men is that we’ll never stop for directions because we know that if we just keep driving on, we’ll eventually end up where we need to be, because the earth is round and if you go straight long enough, you’ll at least get back home. Work harder, not smarter. But losing yourself – not knowing who or how you’re supposed to be, not knowing what you should be doing with your life, not knowing your purpose – losing yourself isn’t gender-specific. All it takes is some crisis, even a small one, to knock our legs out from under us. And some people just stay lost. They know how to do step one.

Some of us are gifted at step two, taking up our crosses. Daily, ha. Hourly, by the minute, we can find new burdens to heave upon our shoulders. If we don’t have enough weighing us down, we’ll take on someone else’s crosses, until we’ve got a stack of them. The church, over the years, has become very skilled at convincing people that the more crosses they take up, the more virtuous, the more blessed they are. Are you loud, happy and dancing your little lightweight Akaloo-y way? What’s the matter with you? If you want to be righteous, you’ve got to suffer, like Jesus, every day. Grrr.” Christians can be so gifted at step two that it makes people wonder if someone put pickle juice in the communion cups.

And some of us also think we can just skip ahead to step three, “follow me,” without holding on to steps one and two. As if you can just go, “Bing!” I’m now a follower of Jesus. I don’t need to deny myself anything, don’t need to take on any crosses (whatever that means). The word, akaloo, gives us a clue about what it really means to follow. “a” the first part, indicates a joining, a together-ish-ness that requires someone else does the driving. The second part, “kaloo,” derives from a word meaning, “the road.” Literally, following means going down the road with someone else in the driver’s seat. You can’t follow unless you also give up some of your power and take on some cross of purpose (parts 1 and 2). If you jump ahead to step 3, you turn Christianity into the great parking lot of salvation. You just drive in circles, saying, “Whee, look at me!” and never get anywhere. Faith takes place on the road, where your “a” and your “kaloo” get together.


So, you could look at today’s scripture and say, “If you want to be a follower of Christ, you only have to do three things. Just follow the steps – one, two, three – and there you go. Instant Christian. Just add water. Or, you could look at today’s scripture and say, “If you want to be a follower of Christ, you have to do not one, not two, but three things – all at the same time – every day. You’ve got to do all three so no single one of the steps gets distorted, so they all check and balance each other. Lose yourself, find your cross, follow me. The concepts are simple. But if all you do is simply conceptualize, you’re no more a follower of Christ than a bump on a log. You have to get up and go, letting Christ lead you with whatever crosses you need to bear, today and every day. So, yes, it’s good to think about what it all means, but you’ve got to get up and go -- to lunch – to who knows where, because God blesses you in your journey. Your journey is your blessing. Go to lunch, go to serve, go to share, go to be. Lose yourself, find your cross, follow Jesus. Akaloo, y’all.