Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Divine Call received

On Sunday, November 19, I received a Divine Call to serve at Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Wautoma, Wisconsin.  Below are letters I composed.  The first is a letter of acknowledgement which was sent to Peace in Wautoma and was read at Good Shepherd on Sunday, November 26.  Below that is a letter sent to the members of Good Shepherd to explain what receiving a Divine Call means and what it does not.  

Comments, words of insight, and prayers are welcome. 

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Greetings in the name of our Savior.

Dear members of Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church,

I am writing to acknowledge that on Sunday, November 19, I received a Divine Call to serve as your pastor.  I thank you that you have considered me for this high privilege.

For the past 27 years, I have had the privilege of serving at Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church in Novi, Michigan (metro Detroit).  Over the next few weeks, I will be considering the challenges and possibilities of each congregation, as well as my own strengths and weaknesses, so that I may determine, to the best of my ability, where I may serve the Lord’s kingdom best.

My wife, Laura, our family, and I welcome your prayers and your insights.

My contact information is:
Cell phone (call or text)       (248) 719-5218

Email                                      welsnovi@aol.com

Mailing address:                  41441 W. 9 Mile Road
                                                Novi, Michigan 48375-4306

God bless and keep you.

In Christ,

Pastor Thomas E. Schroeder

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Greetings in the name of our Savior.

On Sunday, November 19, I received a Divine Call to serve at Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Wautoma, Wisconsin (about 90 miles north of Madison). 

The last time I held a call to another congregation was back in 2008.  Since it has been over 15 years since Good Shepherd has experienced its pastor deliberating a call to another congregation, I thought it would be worthwhile to alert you to the calling process, what it means, and what it does not mean.

The calling process:  In our synod, district presidents (similar to bishops) will assemble a list of candidates at the request of a congregation who is seeking a pastor, perhaps because the pastor from that congregation retired, died, resigned, or accepted a call elsewhere.  He presents the vacant congregation with a list of pastors who are eligible to receive and consider a call to that congregation.  The congregation does not go hunting for their own pastor or put out feelers for applicants.  We draw from within our own synod so that the doctrine and practice remain confessionally Lutheran.  Of the people on the list of potential pastors, Peace Lutheran Church in Wautoma selected me.

When a call is extended, the Holy Spirit works through a congregation to find a man who will serve them.  The call that Good Shepherd has extended to me has not been terminated; the call to Peace has been added.  Therefore, I am currently holding calls to two places where I may serve as a pastor—Good Shepherd in Novi and Peace in Wautoma.  The Holy Spirit is allowing me to decide where I can serve his church.  While neither decision would be sinful, I pray that the Lord makes it clear which decision serves his kingdom best.

What it does not mean: It does not mean that I have to move.  These are not marching orders.  It does not mean that I am looking for reasons to leave or that I am unhappy serving where I am.  I did not submit my name to be considered for the call list for Peace Lutheran Church or for any other list.  For all I know, my name has been on several lists over the past few years but was never selected.  There are currently about 190 pastoral vacancies across our synod, so the fact that a congregation called me was practically inevitable.  For what it is worth, Peace Lutheran Church in Wautoma has been without a pastor for just over a year, and a retired pastor is covering the services there.

What it does mean: Over the next few weeks, I will be communicating with people from Wautoma as well as from our congregation and others in the area to determine where I might best serve in God’s kingdom.  I welcome your prayers and your thoughts.  If you have questions about the calling process, I will gladly answer them for you.  

I don’t have a deadline right now for when I would announce a decision.  Usually, decisions are formed in about a month’s time (enabling me to assess challenges and possibilities in both locations, as well as how my own strengths and weaknesses come into play), but that puts us right up to Christmas which might affect that timing.  I will not let any announcement detract from the Christmas celebration.  Our focus should be on the Christ child, not on me.

I should also note that, as I deliberate, I will be making comments which may sound like I am staying or that I am going.  Please don’t draw any conclusions by those comments.  It is just part of how I deliberate as I consider plans as if I were going and as if I were staying. 

Once again, I welcome your insights and your prayers.

God bless and keep you.

In Christ,

Pastor Schroeder

Advent Music through Lutheran Public Radio


“Savior of the Nations, Come,” “On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry,” “Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending,” “Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding,” “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”  You can listen to sacred music for the Advent season 24/7 at lutheranpublicradio.org, TuneIn, Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple HomePod and the Lutheran Public Radio mobile app.

If you have not checked out Lutheran Public Radio, give them a listen.  

Advent Vespers -- 2023

 2023 Advent Vespers




December 6

Advent Announced. (Genesis 3:15)

December 13

Advent Awaited. (Psalm 14:7)

December 20

Advent At Hand. (Malachi 3:1)


Advent Vespers are Wednesdays at 7:00 PM.

A supper will be served at 6:00 PM.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Sermon -- Last Sunday of the Church Year (November 26, 2023)

DANIEL 7:9-10,13-14


In the name + of Jesus.

     Our Lord Jesus Christ spoke words that people would prefer that he either never said or never meant.  Jesus declared, “There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, and nothing concealed that will not come to light” (Mark 4:22).  Think about that.  Everything you ever did, said, or thought will be revealed.  Before God—and on Judgment Day before all mankind—there will be no secrets.  Everyone will be exposed with nowhere to hide.  There will be no point in denying the charges; for our Lord is omniscient and omnipresent.  He knows all, sees all, and is in all places. 

     This is what Daniel witnessed in his vision on the Last Day.  As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat…  The court sat in judgment, and the books were opened” (Daniel 7:9-10).  St. John saw a similar vision in Revelation: I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. …  And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done” (Revelation 10:11-12). 

     The Lord sees our behavior no matter where we are and what we are doing.  More than seeing our behavior and hearing our words, the Lord knows the very thoughts of our hearts.  Many people have no problem spewing out awful, hateful words on social media.  They can hide behind false names or burner accounts, allowing them to be as offensive, insulting, or disrespectful as they can be.  They are convinced they can get away with it; and for the most part, they do.  But if you think the internet never forgets, then fear the Lord all the more!  On the Last Day, as you are surrounded by all people who have ever lived, the books will be opened.  The Lord will review and recite the records.  Sins will be made known.  The guilty will be proved guilty.  The judgment will be just because the evidence will be presented without being exaggerated and without being refuted.  It is no wonder that people will cower before the Ancient of Days.  The eternal God holds us all responsible for everything he has given us—wealth, words, talents, time, bodies, minds, and manners. 

     And yet, there is one who is bold enough to approach the Ancient of Days without fear.  Daniel described him: “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him” (Daniel 7:13).  He is not merely presented; he is exalted before the Ancient of Days.  “To him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:14).  This Son of Man has no reason to cower before God the Father; for, he is as pure and innocent as the Father is.  This Son of Man has no reason to fear judgment; for he is righteous, and the evidence proves it. 

     No one could find fault with Jesus.  When Jesus was on trial, his enemies trumped up charges against him.  But no charge could stick.  Even paid false witnesses could not get their stories to agree.  Later, the highest court in the land declared him innocent no less than three times.  He was sentenced for crucifixion anyway.  But by dying this way, Jesus completed perfectly and obediently everything that was demanded of him—including dying an innocent death on behalf of the guilty.  Therefore, the Son of Man has been exalted over everything in heaven and on earth.  And his kingdom shall never be destroyed.

     If he is the King over heaven and earth, that means that all people are to be subject to him.  It is exactly as Daniel said, “To him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him” (Daniel 7:13).  If this makes us chafe, it’s because we do not want to be subject to anyone or be subservient at all.  We extol complete freedom.  But you and I do not have complete freedom.  We are dependent upon food, water, and air.  While we strive to take care of our bodies, no one keeps his own heart beating or lungs pumping.  Even when you were born and when you will die—it is God’s call.  All these things depend upon God.

     While we have some freedom to go about our daily lives, we have no freedom in a spiritual sense.  We are subservient to our sinful nature.  Many claim, “No, I am free.  I can do whatever I want.”  But if that is true, then be holy this week.  You can’t.  Or, be honest and admit that freedom means, “I want to commit whatever sins I like and to suffer no consequences for them.”  But this is not freedom.  Either way, you are a slave to sin.  Whoever is bound by their sins is also bound to God’s righteous judgment.  This is why people despise God.  For, It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).

     But not for Jesus.  He who has no sin has no reason to fear the Ancient of Days.  He is the one man who could dwell in the presence of God because he is the one man who is without sin or guilt.  But once again, Jesus did not merely approach God; he was exalted by his heavenly Father.  That’s because Jesus submitted to the duty given to him by his heavenly Father: He made himself a sin offering for the world.  As a sin offering, Jesus had all our sins laid upon him.  He became the substitute for us.  As a sin offering, Jesus was wholly consumed in the fiery wrath of the Father.  The Father held nothing back.  Jesus absorbed the full wrath of God because he had taken on the full load of sin for all people.  After all, Jesus knows everything you and I have thought, said, and done.  Therefore, he did not miss any charge, but claimed accountability for all of it.

     Because Jesus has fulfilled his mission and has paid for all your sins—no matter how severe or secret—Jesus was exalted by his heavenly Father.  The Father was pleased with Jesus’ sacrifice and his obedience.  So, when the Son of Man approached the Ancient of Days, it was to take up his place on the heavenly throne.  He lives and reigns, and his kingdom shall never be destroyed.

     Jesus has brought you into his kingdom through your baptism.  By bringing you into his kingdom, Jesus has delivered all the benefits of his life, death, and resurrection to you.  Jesus’ perfect life answers for your disobedience.  Jesus’ perfect service to his Father atones for your service to yourself.  Jesus’ willing death is the payment for all our sins, whether done willingly or in weakness.  And since this man has overcome death, he is the way for all mankind to be raised from the dead to receive eternal life.  Because this man dwells in the presence of his heavenly Father, he is the way for mankind to stand in the presence of God as well.  And since this man has appeased God’s wrath, mankind does not need to cower before the Lord.  Jesus presents you as guiltless before his Father.  He has delivered you into his kingdom of grace and peace.  And his kingdom shall not be destroyed.

     Daniel observed, “To him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him” (Daniel 7:14).  Some people may be outraged that they should have to serve the Lord.  But one way or another, everyone will have to.  Concerning Jesus, St. Paul reminds us that God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).  Now, to bend the knee before Jesus is to confess that he is your sovereign King.  On the Last Day, everyone will confess it.  Everyone will bend the knee before King Jesus.  Even if they don’t want to, they will have to; for Jesus lives and reigns.  His glory will not be deniable.  Those who reject him and have made it clear that they want nothing to do with Jesus will, sadly, get what they want for eternity.  Rejecting Jesus does not nullify his rule.  Jesus lives and reigns, and his kingdom shall not be destroyed.

     But what a joy it is for us to bend the knee to honor Jesus!  How we delight to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!  He is OUR Lord.  We are his redeemed people, purchased by Jesus’ innocent death and cleansed by Jesus’ precious blood.  We are the beneficiaries of Jesus’ perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection.  His kingdom is our refuge from sin and guilt.  His kingdom is the only place to find peace for one’s conscience and comfort in sorrow and even in death.  We rejoice that his kingdom shall not be destroyed; for then our salvation will never be destroyed. 

     And to serve Jesus is not oppressive for us.  His commands are not burdensome.  It is like your father telling you, “I need you to clean up the room,” or like your mother saying, “I want you to study hard for that test.”  Even if the commands require some effort on our part, we do them because we know that they are good.  And we do them out of love for the one who calls us to act.  We know that every word of his guides us in righteousness.  Now these are the very things we want to do because, thanks to Jesus, we have been freed from sinful desires that lead to death.  Now we are free from the terrors of conscience, death, and judgment.  We are free to love and serve God, knowing that he is on our side, saves us, and serves us for our good. 

     Jesus’ kingdom will not be destroyed.  “To him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:14).  Jesus, true God and yet true man, reigns supreme.  He is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.  That means wherever God has authority, Jesus is there.  Jesus knows all things, sees all things, and is present everywhere.

     But you know that Jesus lives and reigns for your eternal good.  So, if Jesus knows all things, he knows that you trust in him for forgiveness and salvation.  If Jesus sees all things, he sees that you are covered in his righteousness.  If Jesus is present everywhere, then there is no place on earth that his mercy will fail you.  And on the Last Day when “there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, and nothing concealed that will not come to light” (Mark 4:22), Jesus will make it known to all mankind, to all the angels, and to his heavenly Father that you are his beloved people.  And the books will be opened, and there will be no charges against you; for Jesus has purged the records with his blood.  And you will enter his glory to live and reign beside him.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Thanksgiving 2023

We thoroughly enjoyed our Thanksgiving this year.  Everyone was able to make it home except for Faith.  Laura is still on the mend after surgery to repair her torn meniscus.  Having the Packers put up a win against the Lions was a pleasant surprise.  Poor Caitlin had to endure our loud, exuberant cheers at Packer touchdowns, forced turnovers, and other big plays.  Oh well, she's had the previous four contests between the Packers and Lions to gloat.

We got to have a facetime phone call with my brother, his family, and my Mom.  We also got to hear from Laura's side of the family as they had the big celebration for her parents' 60th wedding anniversary.  We wish we could have been there, but we needed to stay here for Laura's recovery.

I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful as well.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Private Confession & Absolution -- Saturday, December 2 (10:00 AM - Noon)

When Lutherans hear someone speak of Private Confession and Absolution, the response is usually a knee-jerk, "That's Roman Catholic!" Though that may be a common perception, the perception is because either it was taught wrongly or understood wrongly. Consider what the Lutheran Confessions teach about Private Confession and Absolution.

Our churches teach that private Absolution should be retained in the churches, although listing all sins is not necessary for Confession. For, according to the Psalm, it is impossible. "Who can discern his errors?" (Psalm 19:12) -- Augsburg Confession, Article XI

What is Confession?
Answer: Confession has two parts: the one is that we confess our sins; the other is that we receive Absolution, or forgiveness, from the confessor, as from God Himself, and in no way doubt, but firmly believe that our sins are forgiven before God in heaven by this.

What sins should we confess?
Answer: Before God we should plead guilty of all sins, even of those that we do not know, as we do in the Lord's Prayer. But before the confessor we should confess only those sins that we know and feel in our hearts.
 -- Luther's Small Catechism, Part V

These are basic confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. They are catholic, insofar as they are Christian. But they are not Roman, insofar as the penitent is not obligated to orally confess every sin in order to be forgiven of it and insofar as one's forgiveness is not dependent upon some action on the part of the penitent. The forgiveness is based on Jesus' sufferings and death for the penitent who has been baptized into his name.

Since the practice of Private Confession and Absolution is a Lutheran practice, it would be good for Lutherans to practice it. It is good for the penitent who is grieved by a particular sin to confess it so that he can hear Christ say through the mouth of his minister: "I forgive you." It would be good for the one who is burdened to be relieved of his burden by Holy Absolution. It would be good for this practice, though foreign to many in my corner of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, to be restored. 

In order for this practice to be restored and perhaps put to better use, there will be dates on the calendar set aside for anyone who would like to drop in and make use of this means of grace. These will be set up about 4 times per year. Private Confession and Absolution is always available by appointment in addition to these scheduled times.

                    A day around Epiphany (Epiphany is always January 6)
                    A day during Holy Week
                    A day around Labor Day weekend
                    A day after Thanksgiving weekend

The next scheduled date and time for Private Confession and Absolution will be Saturday, December 2, 10:00 AM - Noon.  All participation is voluntary, as Absolution cannot be forced upon anyone.

Of course, this will be new to most members who decide to make use of it. If you come in, the pastor will walk through the rite with you and explain the various parts of it, especially including the "private" part, namely, that this confession is to Christ and, therefore, remains his business alone. The pastor will not report the confession or the names of those who come for confession.  No confession will get used as a sermon illustration, either.  The point is not for a pastor to learn everyone's dirty, little secrets.  The point is for the guilty and the grieved to find relief and receive forgiveness, or absolution. 

Update from Good Shepherd (November 23, 2023)


     Sunday School
 -- Sundays at 9:00 AM.
     Adult Bible Class -- Sundays at 9:00 AM.
     Divine Service -- Sundays at 10:00 AM.
     Bible Matters will resume on Wednesday, January 10.
     For a calendar of events and meetings, click here.

          These events serve both to unite our own members better and to connect with people from our community. Look for ways that you can help out to make each event a success. Let’s make the most of the opportunity for each event.
          DEC 3 -- Church Decoration; Stuffing Stockings for Veterans (both after church)
          DEC 6,13,20 -- Mid-Week Advent
                    Dinners at 6:00 PM
                    Vespers at 7:00 PM
          DEC 24 -- Christmas Eve Candlelight Service (7:00 PM)
          DEC 25 -- Christmas Day Festival Service (10:00 AM)

          We hosted a virtual seminar on a Christian view of anxiety on November 5. Mr. William Woodington from Coon Rapids, MN visited us via Zoom to discuss his own struggles with anxiety and spoke about the comfort he found in God's word. While he still considers himself an anxious person, he knows and trusts the promises of God which help him cope with his anxiety. The video recording is here: (277) Whatever is True A Christian View of Anxiety Good Shepherd Novi Nov 6 2023 - YouTube


          Here is a video to introduce people to Good Shepherd Lutheran Church of Novi. Share it as much as you can.
          Shout out to Kaitlyn Cole for her work on its production!

          We will begin a new series beginning on Sunday, November 26. Our topic will be The End Times. With all of the turmoil going on in the Middle East, many pastors are saying that the final prophecies of the Bible are being fulfilled. Some will speak of the conversion of all the Jews. Some will talk about a rapture in which Christians will be taken up into the heavens to be spared any tribulation. Others will speak about a 1,000-year reign of Christ in Jerusalem. Often, the order of events contradicts each other from various pastors. What are we to believe? 
          We will consider how the Scriptures describe the End Times so that we can face it with both comfort and confidence and so that we will not be distracted by false teachings and promises.  You can find a tentative schedule here.
         Classes are Sundays at 9:00 AM.

          Private confession and absolution will be available at church from 10:00 AM - Noon on Saturday, December 2. No appointment is necessary. Just stop in. If this rite is new to you (and it is for many who attend here), the pastor will walk you through the rite so that you understand and appreciate it more. Private confession and absolution is always available by appointment throughout the year.


>     We have made some headway on a new LED sign for the church.  There is a proposal to use our current sign base and frame, and there is a proposal to move the church sign so that it faces 9 Mile Road in both directions.  This would involve a new base and is quite a bit more expensive.  We are arranging a demonstration of what this sign would look like so our members have an opportunity to see it before we make such a large expense.  More information can be attained by speaking to people from Church Council.

>   We approved the proposed budget for the 2024 year.  We have made some increases to the evangelism budget and congregational mission offerings, as well as to a few other places.  We increased the stipend for guest preachers and for our organists/pianists which had remained at the same rate for a decade or more.  A copy of the budget can be received on request.

>   Election of Church Council officers resulted in the following: President: Dan L.; Financial Secretary: Terry B.; Elder: Dan S.; Properties Committee Chairman: Bob W.  The position for Evangelism Committee chair is vacant.  

>   Please note that we have little to no committee for Evangelism and Stewardship.  While members have been willing to help out leading up to a particular event, the planning of these events tends to be a bit scrambled, and some events get cancelled because they do not get planned well.  In order to excel in our efforts for outreach to our community and to strengthen the bonds of fellowship among us, we welcome and encourage members to join us for these planning meetings.  We meet roughly every other month, so the time commitment is minimal.

>    We will be looking into a method for people to give offerings through an app on their phones.  When we get this service set up, we will provide more information.

          The WELS has a support group for military veterans. You are able to acquire materials and attain services through the Lutheran Military Support Group (lutheranmilitary.org). You can either submit your information to the pastor to enroll you, or you can go to wels.net/refer to add your name and information to their data base.

          Services are uploaded to YouTube each week. Feel free to share the videos. Here is the service from Sunday, November 19: 
(303) Good Shepherd Novi, Divine Service, November 19, 2023 - YouTube

          The pastor will try to maintain regular office hours are Monday – Thursday, 9:00 AM - Noon. To ensure the pastor’s availability, it is best to make an appointment. He is available by phone or text (248-719-5218). You may also email (welsnovi@aol.com), but the response may be slower. 

          Look for Good Shepherd on Facebook. Then “LIKE” us for updates and other postings. Be sure to share posts with friends.

          We desire as many as possible to rejoice in the Gospel which we proclaim and confess. Share the information from our weekly email blast, links to our web page, and even to the pastor's blog to let others know that we have a space in our congregation for them!

In Christ,
Pastor Schroeder


DIVINE SERVICES are on Sundays at 10:00 AM.
Sunday School -- Sundays at 9:00 AM
Adult Bible Class -- Sundays at 9:00 AM
Advent Vespers -- Wednesdays in December (6, 13, 20)
     Supper at 6:00 PM
     Worship at 7:00 PM
Bible Matters will resume on Wednesday, January 10 at 6:30 PM.