One thing that I love about working in the inner city is getting back to the basics of the gospel and who Jesus is. I think that we as Christians tend to view Christ's atoning death on the cross for our sins and His resurrection as something to accept and believe at the beginning of our faith, and then to move onto the meatier doctrinal issues. I say this believing wholeheartedly that doctrine is essential for understanding how to live a life pleasing to the Lord, but never at the expense of ignoring or minimizing the cross. The cross should be the center and focus of our relationship with Jesus and our ministry to others. And in the inner city, that beautiful simplicity becomes more apparent and real.
A couple weeks ago, the Houston interns, along with the large junior high group we were hosting, attended a church service underneath a bridge. It was hosted by 1000 Hills Ministries, a mobile church that reaches out to the homeless community with multiple outdoor public services per week around the city. Sitting in folding chairs, hearing the trucks and cars rumble above us on the highway, we listened to a special guest choir and heard testimonies. As I sat in the folding chair, watching the people around me, I was struck by the sense of utter simplicity and purity of Jesus' presence under that bridge. I thought of the budding Church told about in the book of Acts, and felt tears in my eyes as I saw something very similar before me.
The emotion followed me back to the housing site, and I sat down to write the following poem. Who was Jesus, really? What kind of Savior was relevant to everyone from a middle-class teenager to a graduate student like myself to a homeless person who would later curl up on a piece of sidewalk to sleep? I think God let me see the answer that night:
Jesus is Free
Every thing and every person in the world requires something of you.
But Jesus is free.
You don't have to be rich,
You don't have to be powerful
You don't even have to be clean (in any sense of the word).
You don't have to be eloquent
or be fluent in English.
You don't have to be educated,
or even sane.
You don't have to be 16, 18, 21, 25, or 55 years old.
You don't have to have it all together.
You don't have to come from a good family,
You don't have to have a clean record,
You don't even have to be out of jail.
You don't have to be married,
be talking to your children.
You don't have to be straight.
You don't have to be healthy,
or belong to a particular political party.
You don't have to have an address,
you don't need a bank account or good credit.
Because Jesus is everything, and everything He has is for all who ask.
Jesus is free.
-Katie Phelps, CSM Houston Summer 2009 City Host