Forklift Theology

Faith musings from the seat of a forklift.

I need a leader.

wenceslas

Leadership is a such a buzzword. Seems like there is always somebody saying something about it. You may hear about an “Employee Leadership Pool”. You may hear talk about how somebody is a “lead”. There are even a numerous amount of books that talk about leadership. It is almost enough to make your head spin.

Personally, I think true leadership should be by example. Just because one is placed in a leadership position doesn’t mean they are in charge. If anything, they are supposed to be the example. Unfortunately, modern leadership is more about who is in charge than who is a true leader.

There is a popular song in many liturgical churches, one that is usually sung around the time of the “Feast of Stephen”. In fact, that feast, is even mentioned in the song. That song is called “Good King Wenceslas”.

Before discussing whom King Wenceslas is, we should probably stop and look at whom Stephen was. Stephen’s story is quite short, but also quite remarkable.

We read of Stephen in only one book of the Bible, and only in the New Testament. Stephen’s brief story is recorded in chapters six and seven of the Book of Acts.

Stephen had initially been among seven chosen to help with the distribution, which was likely holy communion, though scripture does not clearly specify if this was the case, thus speculation on my part. Regardless, Stephen was among seven whom were chosen for this duty.

Stephen would be found full of grace and performing various signs and wonders, which was neither uncommon nor normative in the early church. However, Stephen’s story is cut short, because his life was cut short. He was seized, and falsely accused by the scribes and elders of the temple. He was then stoned to death for his faith in Christ Jesus, thus becoming the first Christian martyr. Yet, even in his death, Stephen emulated Christ Jesus, asking God to not hold the sin of murdering him against those who murdered him, including Saul of Tarsus, who was there.

The Feast of Stephen is typically celebrated on 26 December by the Western churches, and on 27 December by the Eastern churches. It is also known to be celebrated on 9 January by some churches. Why is this date traditionally celebrated as the Feast of Stephen? Honestly, I don’t know. This is one area where I am without a resource.

King Wenceslas, or Wenceslaus, was born around 907 AD. It is likely he was born in Prague, Bohemia. His father was a Christian, but his mother was not, at least not at the time of their marriage, though not enough is known of his mother to truly be certain of her. What is known, ultimately, is that Wenceslas’ life (and reign) was quite short, approximately 14 years. Wenceslas was murdered, or so historians believe, by his younger brother, Boleslav.

Wenceslas was considered a saint almost immediately upon his death. Ironically, just as Stephen had besought God to forgive those who had stoned him, Wenceslas is said to have forgiven his brother for his murder. This would begin the legacy of the man whom would be commemorated in an annual hymn.

The song that commemorates Wenceslas tells of him seeing a poor man gather wood for fuel on the Feast of Stephen, and choosing to take meat and wine to that self same man. Again, my resources are limited, so I do not the veracity of the tale within the song. What I have is this quote from the chronicler Cosmas of Prague, who wrote in 1119:

“But his deeds I think you know better than I could tell you; for, as is read in his Passion, no one doubts that, rising every night from his noble bed, with bare feet and only one chamberlain, he went around to God’s churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched.”

Pope Pius II apparently would claim this as being fact. Thus the legend that would come to surround this man, whom is recorded to have taken the thrown for himself after of Great Moravia. However, there is something from this legend, something that bears a good look.

If the legend is true, then we have a great example of true leadership, even if we merely go with the lyrics of the song which commemorates him. What we have is a man of high stature, whom for no clearly given reason, chooses to risk wind and cold to take food and drink to a peasant. In doing so, he gives an example of doing what needed doing, and taking it upon himself to do it, rather than merely ordering somebody else to do it.

Personally, I don’t know how much of the legend is true. However, if you want a great example of leadership, and leadership in action, you can’t go wrong with the legend of Wenceslas. In the song, Wenceslas demonstrates what it truly means to be a leader, by doing what needed doing, and not merely by ordering others around.

Leadership isn’t just a buzzword. It is an action. True leadership is doing what needs doing, even if it is unpleasant. Those who refuse to take upon themselves such tasks, those same are unworthy to be called leaders. Being in charge doesn’t make you a leader, unless you are working along side those whom you have authority over, and doing the exact same work.

One final note. Christ Jesus asked God to forgive those who crucified him. Stephen asked God to forgive those who stoned him to death. Wenceslas forgave his brother, Boleslav, with his dying breath, for his murder. These are all great examples of true forgiveness.

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