The Summer of ’66

By Victor Knowles

It was the summer of 1966, and I was set to enter my junior year in Bible college in August. Three shocking events transpired that sultry summer 50 years ago.

03_Communion_JNOn June 6, civil rights activist James Meredith was shot while traveling in Mississippi. Fortunately, he survived.

A few days later, on July 14, the city of Chicago became the scene of a horrific mass murder when Richard Speck killed eight student nurses.

And just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, on August 1 an ex-Marine, Charles Whitman, barricaded himself atop the University of Texas Tower in Austin. Before that now distant day was done, the sniper had shot and killed 14 people and wounded 32 more.

Sometimes we think “the good old days” were not so bad. Not so. Mankind had barely begun to breathe when Cain killed his brother, Abel.

The Bible says the heart of God was “deeply troubled” (Genesis 6:6) at the “wickedness of the human race” (6:5), and that “the earth is filled with violence because of them” (6:13).

Centuries later, in the parable of the tenants, Jesus spoke of a landowner (God) who sent his servants (the prophets) to collect the fruit from the tenants. Every one of the servants was beaten, stoned or killed. “Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said” (Matthew 21:37). But they didn’t. They killed his son too.

God so loved but the world so hated.

Jesus came into a first-century world filled with death and violence. His love and compassion was met head-on with nails and thorns.

In “Indifference,” poet George Studdart-Kennedy wrote of Jesus’ crucifixion:

They crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds and deep,

For those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap.

And herein lies the miracle of Calvary and Communion.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).

The broken bread and crimson cup remind us of our sin—and God’s amazing love for sinners.

Victor Knowles is founder and president of POEM (Peace on Earth Ministries), Joplin, Missouri.

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