Sunday, October 1, 2023

Sermon -- 18th Sunday after Pentecost (October 1, 2023)

EZEKIEL 18:1-4,25-32


In the name + of Jesus.

     The prophet Ezekiel was among the very first residents of Jerusalem to be carried off into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar.  The Lord called him to preach to his fellow exiles.  In our reading, the Lord told Ezekiel to address a complaint that was circulating among the exiles.

     The word of the Lord came to me: ‘What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge”’” (Ezekiel 18:1-2)?  If you have eaten a bad grape, your whole face puckers up.  But the proverb is that the fathers eat the bad grapes and the children’s faces pucker up.  So, here’s the complaint: Why is it that one group does something stupid or wicked and another group has to pay the price for it?

     We utter similar complaints today.  We observe people who do all sorts of wicked things—in government, in businesses, in neighborhoods, or even in our family.  And they never seem to pay a price for it.  They get rich.  They remain popular and influential.  You don’t dare confront them lest you suffer for it.  God doesn’t stop it, either; and then others suffer as a result of it. 

     The opposite is true, too.  Faithful Christians seem to receive no visible benefits for their faithfulness.  The drunk driver kills someone but walks away with minor injuries.  People waste away because of cancer or cancer treatments.  They bury their children at a tender age.  On the other end of the spectrum, the minds of the elderly deteriorate from Alzheimer’s Disease.  It’s like God either does not know or does not care what is going on.  God’s ways are unpredictable, unreasonable, or random.  Our conclusion is the same as the Israelites’: “The way of the Lord is not just” (Ezekiel 18:29).  

     Understand the way of the Lord to live in hope.  If you think the Christian faith should result in a long, healthy life of riches and ease, you will be sorely disappointed.  Those things are blessings to be sure.  But even if God should bless you with long life, great wealth, and robust health, they will all come to an end.  The goal of the Christian faith is what we confess in the Nicene Creed: “We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.”  That is what we pray for and long for.  Understand the way of the Lord so that you live in hope.

     Ezekiel was called to address this complaint and to declare God’s ways to the people.  Through his prophet, the Lord declared, As I live, declares the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel” (Ezekiel 18:3).  At the final judgment, no one will pay the price for someone else’s sin.  Everyone answers for himself.  You cannot vouch for your loved ones no matter how much you love them.  Likewise, you cannot influence God to banish people to hell no matter how much you think they deserve it.  At the same time, no one can convince God to render a particular judgment about you.  Your loved ones cannot get you in, and your enemies cannot keep you out.  Ezekiel stated it plainly: “I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God” (Ezekiel 18:30). 

     Understand the way of the Lord so that you live in hope.  Do not judge by your own observations; they will deceive you.  Whether your life is prosperous or pitiful, neither proves what God thinks of you.  Not even behavior can tell you about God’s judgment.  There are atheists who are honest and noble.  There are Christians who cannot control their anger, their alcohol, or their passions.  Based purely on observations, who does God favor?  Our best answer is this: We don’t know. 

     The Lord, however, puts everyone in the same category: “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4).  Who would be arrogant enough to say that he has not sinned?  Even though people experience different levels of triumphs and tragedies in life, every life ends the same—death and then judgment before God.  Therefore, the Lord implores all people, Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin.  Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit” (Ezekiel 18:30-31)!

     Understand the way of the Lord to live in hope.  Our hope is Jesus Christ.  He has taken from us all the sins that stand against us.  He made our sin his own, and then he suffered what sinners deserve.  “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4); and so, Jesus died for us.

     From an earthly viewpoint, the sufferings and death of Jesus appear to be unjust, unreasonable, and random acts of violence.  Although Jesus was always honest, generous, and receptive to all kinds of people, he was slandered, falsely accused, and unjustly sentenced.  He was beaten to a bloody pulp by religious leaders and Roman soldiers.  He was brutally flogged so that his back was one, giant, open wound.  Then he was stripped naked and mocked as he was being crucified.  Isaiah foretold how it all appeared: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man who knew grief, who was well acquainted with suffering.  … We thought it was because of God that he was stricken, smitten, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:3-4). 

     But understand the way of the Lord so that you will live in hope.  The Lord has revealed the reason for Jesus’ sufferings and death so that we do not see it as a tragic act of injustice which reduces our meditations to, “Oh, poor Jesus!”  Rather, the reason for Jesus’ sufferings and death so that we would live in hope.  This suffering was for our sins.  This death paid the price to deliver us out of death and hell.  Yes, “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4), but Jesus assumed all our sins upon himself.  Jesus did not go to the cross because we experience misery.  No one goes to hell because he is crippled by a car accident, has a heart attack, or dies in battle.  “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, emphasis added).  Sin is the reason we die.  Sin brings down God’s curse and wrath.  Our sin is the real problem which results in all the other problems.  Sin has corrupted the whole world and makes life unjust, unpredictable, unreasonable, and random.  So, Jesus came to deliver us out of that to a life of glory and perfection.

     Understand the way of the Lord so that you live in hope.  And praise God for the hope that you have.  No one is so far gone that he is without hope.  No one.  This is what the Lord says: “When a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life.  Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die” (Ezekiel 18:27-28). 

     No matter how much wickedness someone has done, it is all washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ.  Jesus did not endure hell on the cross for mistakes, but for sins.  And since it is the Lord who died for sinners, all sinners are covered.  All sins, regardless of how many or how bad, have been paid for.  Those who repent of their sins, believe in Jesus, and are baptized into his name are made pure in God’s sight.  Now, you are robed in garments of salvation.  The world may not think you look any better, but God says you are beautiful because Jesus Christ covers you.

     Ezekiel also issued a warning for any who would turn away from the Lord.  “When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die” (Ezekiel 18:26).  No one should dare trust that his confirmation vow or even his baptism will save him if he abandons Christ.  Outside of Christ, there is only sin, death, and judgment.  In Christ alone is there hope and forgiveness. 

     The way of the world, however, still appears to be unjust, unreasonable, unpredictable, and random.  Ezekiel preached to people in exile to give them hope in their upended lives.  Those people were never going to return home.  They would all die in exile.  However, that did not negate God’s promises.  Those who believed God’s promises remained God’s people.  The Jews who had remained in Jerusalem did not have it any easier.  Many died by starvation, disease, or sword.  None of those options were good, but those who believed God’s promises remained God’s people.  Whether they died peacefully or violently, they still would be given the glories of heaven.  And that, after all, remains the goal of our faith.

     Understand the way of the Lord so that you live in hope.  Like the believers of Ezekiel’s day, we still experience misery and tragedy.  Christians are still maimed in car accidents.  Christians still succumb to cancer.  Christian parents may bury their young at a tender age.  Aged Christians may be victims of Alzheimer’s and dementia.  If you should suffer these or similar hardships, understand the way of the Lord so that your hope sustains you.  The Lord has given you a new heart and new spirit which knows God’s promises.  The promises are not that you would be bullet-proof, but that you would receive heavenly glory.

     Therefore, in all the uncertainties of life, your hope remains sure.  In the grief of death, you still have joy, knowing that there is a resurrection of the dead.  And if your life should be cut short on earth, eternal peace and glory in God’s presence shall never be cut short.  The goal of the Christian faith is the same whether you die at age nine or ninety-nine: “We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.” 

     Understand the way of the Lord so that you live in hope.  Many people do not have the hope that you have.  People may work feverishly to make this world a better place.  But a world broken by sin will never be fixed by sinners.  Even if people make gains in making their own lives better, that can all be upended in a moment by a phone call with tragic news.  But you have the hope they need; and whether they think so or not, you need to tell them about your hope.  You have the only comfort that is dependable in an unpredictable world.  The Lord Jesus will deliver his people out of a world of sorrow to the glories of heaven.  And his mercy sustains us through all our sorrows until we get there.

     Understand the way of the Lord so that you live in hope.  And your hope will not be disappointed.

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

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Dealing with Anxiety -- A Christian Perspective




          Mental health has become a common issue among people of all ages.  It seems to be affecting young people particularly hard.  There are many problems in this world and in our lives that can foster anxiety.  What comfort do we have?  What relief can we find?

          William Woodington is a member at Cross of Christ Lutheran Church in Coon Rapids, MN.  He published a book entitled, Whatever Is True: A Christian View of Anxiety. 

          On Sunday, November 5 at 6:00 PM, Good Shepherd will be hosting a virtual presentation by Mr. Woodington.  He will discuss about his own struggles with anxiety and the relief he found in God’s word and prayer.  Following his presentation, he will facilitate a question and answer session for all attendees.

          Snacks will be available.  All are welcome. 

Read more about Woodington’s journey in his book Whatever Is True: A Christian View of Anxiety, available from Northwestern Publishing House,

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Evangelism Seminar -- Saturday, September 30 (9 AM - Noon)


Let’s talk

about evangelism!

Christians want to share their faith, but where do we start? Who do we tell? What tools are available to help us?

If you are asking those questions as an individual, or considering how you can answer those questions as a congregation, great. That’s where you start.

On September 30th, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran School (17810 Farmington Road) in Livonia will be hosting a workshop from 9:00 AM - Noon, inviting WELS members from our area congregations to come and talk about evangelism.

There is no cost to attend!  We will be meeting in the school gymnasium.

Topics include:

Prepared to Answer- Pastor Tom Schroeder

Evangelism by Jesus—Pastor Josh Krieger

Evangelism Tools—Pastor Alex Groth

Social Media Outreach—Adam Rose

Update from Good Shepherd (September 28, 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 -- Wednesdays at 6:30 PM 
     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.
          OCT 22 -- Trunk or Treat (3 – 5 PM)
          NOV 5 -- Presentation on how a Christian may deal with Anxiety (6:30 PM)
          DEC 3 -- Church Decoration (after church)
          DEC ? -- Christmas for Kids (TBD)
          DEC 6,13,20 -- Mid-Week Advent Dinners (6:00 PM)
          DEC 24 / 25 -- Christmas services

Our out-to-eat event at an Indian restaurant is being rescheduled to a winter date.

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


SUNDAYS at 9:00 AM. We are studying St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians.
          10/01    Ephesians 2:11-22       Founded upon Christ
          10/08    Ephesians 3:1-21         Proclaiming the Mysteries of Christ
          10/15    Ephesians 4:1-16         United in Christ
          10/22    Ephesians 4:17-32       Living as Christians – Fleeing the Darkness; Walking in Light (part 1)

WEDNESDAYS at 6:30 PM. We will be studying the life of Joseph: Humbled and Exalted Servant of God's People.
          Oct 4      Fleeing from temptation; Suffering for faithfulness (Genesis 39)
          Oct 11    Dreams and Prophesy; Joseph is exalted (Genesis 40-41)
          Oct 18    Being put to the test (Genesis 42-43)
          Oct 25    Standing before the sovereign king and judge (Genesis 44)


> Our annual Trunk or Treat will be Sunday, October 22 (3 – 5 PM).  We will need at least ten cars decorated for this event.  If you need some ideas, we will be pulling down from the church attic some of the VBS supplies which can be used as a theme to decorate your cars.  If you don’t want to decorate your car, we will need other people to serve the donuts and cider inside the church, as well as others who can meet and greet our guests.  There will be a Trunk or Treat prep meeting on Sunday, October 8 after church.

>    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.

          Nobody wants to talk about the ugly subject of pornography, but it is unfortunately something which more people struggle with than we’d like to admit. Many people, perhaps too ashamed to confess their struggles publicly, can find relief through this online source which will help them fight their fascination and/or addiction to pornography. Take a look at . Feel free to share this website so others can be freed from the snares of porn.

          Services are uploaded to YouTube each week. Feel free to share the videos. Here is the service from Sunday, September 24: 
(199) Good Shepherd Novi, Divine Service, September 24, 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 (, 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
Bible Matters -- Wednesdays at 6:30 PM



Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Pastors' Conference -- Zion Lutheran Church, Lansing, Michigan

On Monday, September 25 and Tuesday, September 26, the pastors of the southeast conference of the Michigan District of the WELS met at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lansing, Michigan for mutual encouragement and growth.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Sermon -- 17th Sunday after Pentecost (September 24, 2023)

MATTHEW 20:1-16


In the name + of Jesus.

     We often measure God by earthly standards.  When we do, we find all kinds of reasons to criticize God about the way he acts.  Why are some people born with birth defects when most people are born with bodies that are whole?  That does not seem fair.  Why are some people born in poverty, squalor, or war when others are not?  That does not seem fair. 

     God receives similar criticism because he does not run his kingdom the way we would run a business.  We are very calculating about our expenses and income.  We make our decisions based on cost analysis.  And while everyone has a different idea about what is the fair treatment of employees, we expect that employees would be treated fairly.  We also expect that the longer you work somewhere, the better you would be compensated.

     Now consider the parable that Jesus told.  The master of the vineyard went out to hire day-laborers.  “(He) went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.  After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard” (Matthew 20:1-2).  So far, so good.  A day’s wage for a day’s work.  That is fair.  Then “going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’” (Matthew 20:3-4).  We don’t know what the master had in mind here for a wage.  He did not promise any specific amount, just “whatever is right.”  So, we assume that they will get a reduced wage.  If they did not work a full day, it would not be fair to give them a full day’s wage.  Then the master went out again, at the sixth hour and again at the ninth hour.  He even went with only an hour left in the day and found other laborers who had not been hired.  He sent them to his vineyard, making no promises about the wage.  Nothing seems out of line here.  Workers were hired.  Each put in their time, though different time for different laborers.

     At the end of the day, the day-laborers were lined up to receive their day’s pay.  “The owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’  And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius.  Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius” (Matthew 20:8-10).  You can see the problem.  How is someone who only worked for one hour paid the same as someone who worked for twelve hours?  This is patently unfair, and the workers said so: “They grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat’” (Matthew 20:11-12).   

     Remember, however, that this is not a parable about business practices.  This is about the kingdom of heaven.  The vineyard is not a business; the vineyard is the Church.  The laborers are the people who have been brought into the Church.  None of them were in the vineyard when the day began.  The master had to go out, find them, and bring them in.  The master gave them opportunity to be productive and to have purpose.  Without the master, they had none of that.  Without the master taking the initiative, the people would have no association with the vineyard.  And everyone who was brought in was given the same promise from the master.  The master would give them all what was right.

     But it does not always seem right.  The first laborers lodged a complaint which seems to be valid.  “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat” (Matthew 20:12).  Even in the Church, we get the idea that those who have been around longer should get greater reward and receive better treatment.  You might feel that it is not fair that God makes everyone equal.  Some complain and even demand that God would be fair with them.  But be grateful that God is not fair; for we all have a flawed view of what is fair. 

     So, what’s fair?  Fair is that God would give us what we deserve.  Not what we think we deserve, but what we have actually earned from God.  Remember in the parable how none of the workers were in the vineyard.  This is the reality for all people who come into the world.  No one begins in the kingdom of God.  Psalm 51 reminds us, Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).  We all begin in sin.  We prove our sinful nature as soon as we are old enough to do it.  No one had to teach you how to be selfish; you just are.  No one had to teach you to be jealous, to be angry, or to seek revenge; it just comes out of you.  We do not have an inherent right be in the vineyard or to receive the master’s goods.  If the master were to be fair, he would leave us to self-destruction.  Then he would convict us and condemn us.  Fair is that everyone goes to hell because everyone is a sinner.  Be grateful that God is not fair.

     In bringing people into the Church, the Lord is not fair.  To secure our place in the kingdom of God, the Lord became a man to be the way for mankind to enter in.  The Lord Jesus is the one man who was born into this world apart from sin.  Having been conceived by the Holy Spirit, he did not inherit a sinful nature.  His nature is pure and innocent.  He is the very image of God in the flesh.  For this reason, Jesus is also the one man who has kept every commandment of God.  Every thought, word, action, and motive of Jesus is in perfect harmony with God’s will.  So, the only person who can claim to have earned God’s favor and a place in eternal glory is Jesus.  But that is not what he got.

     St. Peter wrote, Christ…suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).  It is not fair that the righteous one should suffer and die.  He deserved better.  And it is not fair that the unrighteous should be set free and be praised by God.  The unrighteous deserve death and judgment.  Be grateful that God is not fair.

     Jesus Christ willingly gave up his life to rescue you.  The innocent one was condemned so that the guilty would be pardoned.  He who has the words of eternal life was put to death so that we, who deserve death, will receive eternal life.  Jesus died under the curse of his Father so that we now receive the Father’s blessing and good will.  None of this is fair.  Jesus was cast out of the Holy City so that we could be brought in.  Be grateful that God is not fair.

     You and I have been sought by the Lord and brought into the vineyard, the Church.  We have been set apart for good works so that our lives honor God and benefit our neighbor.  And our prayer is that more and more be brought into God’s vineyard to have the same blessings and benefits we have. 

     Still, we struggle with wicked jealousy.  Beware that you do not fall into the same temptation as the one laborer who rebuked the master.  “On receiving (the denarius) they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’  But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong.  Did you not agree with me for a denarius’” (Matthew 20:11-13).  Then he spoke these chilling words: “Take what belongs to you and go.” (Matthew 20:14).  The man did not want to benefit from the grace of his master; he wanted what was fair.  And the master answered his prayer.  He was expelled from the vineyard.

     Be grateful that the Lord is not fair, and do not become jealous when he is not.  Many Christians have been in the Church their whole life long—born in Christian homes and baptized as infants, attending services on Sundays and striving for godly living all week.  But others have been brought into the Church later in life—at the third hour, the sixth hour, the ninth hour, or even the eleventh hour, perhaps on one’s death bed or on death row.  Those, by the way, are rare.  Why would Christians be upset that laborers were brought into the vineyard later? 

     And what is there to envy about those who are outside the kingdom?  For many, life is all about wine, women, and song.  The worst that they think can happen to them is to lose the whole world.  Eventually, they will.  This world will pass away.  How could we resent anyone who is delivered from such a dismal future and whose life now is empty?  Would you envy people who go through life without comfort, peace, and hope?  Would you envy people who face death with no assurance?  But for you, the worst that can happen is to lose your soul.  In Christ, we can’t.  Not even death can take us away from Jesus.  Therefore, we long to be with Jesus. 

     Be grateful that God is not fair.  Everyone brought into the kingdom of God did not deserve to be brought in.  Everyone in the kingdom of God receives the same denarius—forgiveness of sins, new life, and salvation.  Everyone in the kingdom of God is a child of God and an heir of eternal glory.  Whether you have been a Christian your whole life long or your conversion occurred since the beginning of this sermon, you are all equally loved and redeemed.  There is no Christian with an asterisk.  There is no child of God on probation.  We are all clothed in the same garments of salvation—not because it is fair, but because we all have the same gracious God.  Be grateful that God is not fair.

     The blessings that we receive in life are often not distributed evenly.  You may look at the way God blesses various people and conclude that God has not been fair.  It may not look fair to you, but God blesses us according to his wisdom, knowing what is best for us.  If God has you bearing the burden of pain or sorrow, he still comforts you with the promise that all your pains and sorrows will have an end.  If you have to endure the scorching heat of persecution, the Lord Jesus is still with you.  God never forsakes his beloved redeemed.  And if your labor in the vineyard gets difficult, your fellow workers in the vineyard are here to encourage you. 

     “The kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard” (Matthew 20:1).  We are the laborers in his vineyard, the Church.  In his grace, God has brought us in.  In his grace, God has promised us great reward.  In his grace, God desires us to be with him and he with us.  The gracious master gives us all we need for this life and the next.  Be grateful that God is not fair, and rejoice that God is so gracious.

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