The hard part was over. I had the 30 pages of answered questions. I had preached the sermon, got the Bible Study ready, and passed the interview. I had taken the necessary classes from seminary and went through every hoop the Methodist Church had set before me, it was finally time to be commissioned. I answered my call in the summer of 2001, and it was finally now in the spring of 2009 that I have become Reverend.
So to say that Monday night May 25, 2009 was a big night in my life is a bit of an understatement. I knew this. I knew that I had family coming in from out of town to attend the commissioning (There was my new nephew Bennett that they came to see as well.) There was the barrage of handshakes and congratulations that were flying my way from an assortment of communities that I had been a part of. I knew this was a big night.
The days leading up to the commissioning were a lot of waiting. We waited to rehearse. We waited to get voted on. We waited to get our picture taken. We waited for the processional hymn to mark our entrance. Finally, 15 of us were there on the floor of worship at annual conference. We sang “Christ for the World We Sing” (an appropriate song for the occasion), were called to worship, heard the scripture read, and heard the word proclaimed by Bishop Linda Lee. She preached about the scripture in John 14, where Jesus says we will do greater things than he did. No pressure, Bishop. Thanks.
Right before we were commissioned, we sang the Doxology. I am becoming a bigger and bigger fan of the doxology. To me the doxology is just a great break where we can praise our Triune God. In the midst of a worship service, the doxology causes us to refocus our attention to praise of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Back to the service. There we were sitting waiting anxiously for the Bishop to lay hands on us. They said some words about what it means to be commissioned. Bishop Hayes declared, “Urged on by the love of Christ and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, they come to declare in public their desire to bind themselves to the service of God and to be appointed to share in the ministry of Christ.” How true those words were! While I had been so focused on getting through the process of being commissioned, I had not focused on what was actually happening. My movement from lay to clergy is a declaration on the call of God on my life, and my public covenant with God to serve Him in ministry.
Next was the “Examination.” Some questions we needed to publically answer. These questions bleed with Orthodox and Orthopraxy. Our answers bled with grace. Most of the questions had this tag with it, “with the help of God.” I would like to add the word, “only.”
Finally, came the actual commissioning. We came up one by one. I was 13 out of 14. It was easy to know what to do. I just did what I have been doing for 20+ years, follow the leader. We were around the altar on the floor at St. Luke’s UMC. One by one, we climbed the few stairs to the center of the chancel area, knelt at the one-person kneeler before the Bishop and received our commissioning.
When it was my turn to come up, I slowly walked up the steps taken in this solemn moments. The folks in the congregation who were a part of my journey of ministry stood up in support of me, as I knelt down before the Bishop. I had heard him say the words 12 times before, and I had read the words many times, but when he said these words, “Pour out your Holy Spirit upon Aaron Christopher Tiger.” It was not just words, but a description of the kingdom reality of the moment. The Holy Spirit was poured out and was a tangible presence in my bones. This was not just a sentimental feeling, but a sensation of the abiding of God in my soul. I did not know what to expect, but come to think of it that is only typical with this untamed God that we serve.
Bishop Hayes continued, “Send Aaron now to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, to announce the reign of God, and to equip the church for ministry, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” And the church said, “Amen.”
So, here I am: Rev. Aaron Tiger: a commissioned minister in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Though I live in the already-not yet reality of being a probationary elder and non-appointed one at that, being commissioned did not make me a minister, but it was a public realization of God’s anointing and call in my life. So, I will continue to proclaim the good news of God, to announce the reign of God, and to equip the church for ministry only with the help of God.