And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
War broke out in heaven. The archangel Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, lucifer. The fallen fought back. It sounds spectacular in a world that looks so ordinary. There’s no shortage of conflict down here, but it comes without awe. Might be why so many think religion is stories for children to learn how to behave while the adults handle the important things in the other room. The thing is, we never wanted it this way.
The might of armored seraphs with fiery swords, the tramp of soldiers marching feet, the electricity you can feel. It makes it easier to stand. To fight. We call ourselves Christian soldiers, marching to war while we imagine legions of angels back us up and cheer.
But our vision plays itself out in the mundane. It looks like keyboard warriors pounding bitter replies in the name of truth while battling secret vices. And losing far more than they win. It looks like parents willing children to receive God’s gifts while trying not to sound so full of doubt themselves. It looks like an institution complaining the world won’t join them even while it circles the wagons against them and preaches so that we, inside, imagine we’d have no problems left if it weren’t for them out there. But hey come join us too. We need pledges. Conflict plays itself out in politic and debate, tragedy, and sin. It’s hard to feel inspired. Doubt, fear, and shame rule our days. So we go see movies about heroes and imagine, if only for a second, our own battle cry is enough to win the war. Then we go home to the ordinary and wish we could do more than play pretend.
The ones who haven’t given up altogether tell themselves the spiritual battles are fought out of sight. The truth is, they never were. The first was fought in a garden, where the serpent whispered to Eve about a tree she both hated and coveted. Then he earned his name. Satan. It means accuser. He used a weapon more powerful than sword and shield. He told the truth. Satan stood before the throne of God and twisted God’s truth, given as life, into a weapon of death. “They sinned. I don’t care if they’re mine or not. I just want you to do to them as you have done to me. Punish them.” Satan smirked as he stood beside God, begging to torment Job, but remember his goal was not to hurt him, but to make him sin. “Curse God and die”, he whispered through Job’s own wife. He was so eager to bet his maker because it just didn’t seem like a fair fight.
His name doesn’t mean evil. It means accuser. He doesn’t have to do the evil. He just has to tell the truth about us. We do evil just fine without him. St. Michael ground his teeth. He was the archangel, the fiercest warrior in all creation, but what could he do? If he gathered his angels to fight, it would be against those who destroy God’s kingdom. Us, who he loved with God. He was bound by the simple truth. We sinned. We acted for ourselves. Not God. Not our neighbor. Us. The temptations we fall into over and over, these are the spiritual battles we fight. They aren’t hidden, just ignored. Because it’s depressing. It doesn’t seem like a fair fight.
But even as Michael waited, even as satan stood before God accusing, the angels still sang songs of hope. Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord, God of Sabaoth. Heaven and earth are full of His glory. There was a reckoning. It was promised to Eve even as she sat in the darkness of defeat. There will come a child, born of a woman, who will crush the serpent’s head. Satan will bruise his heel, but the Christ will crush his head.
The nail was driven into his heel when He hung upon the cross. And satan thought he won. The promised Child bowed his head. He gave up His spirit. Then all hell broke loose. It was never a fair fight. The benches were emptied. The angel army cried, “Go!” Angels who waited with clenched teeth since the fall rose up to do battle. Michael drove a spear tipped with a cross through the heart of the devil. War in heaven was fought so powerfully that the earth shook and the sun was blotted from the sky. As satan fell like lightning from heaven, he fell through the curtain, ripping it from top to bottom. The war in heaven was won on the cross. The spiritual war was never hidden. You can see it won right there. The devil’s weapon, truth, was turned against him. Your sins are forgiven. satan has nothing left to accuse you with. The doors to hell were kicked open, as Christ descended there to preach the truth that saves to the spirits in prison. The war in heaven was won at Calvary.
After the cross, satan was cast from heaven, conquered by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of truth. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” Today, he prowls about this world like a roaring lion, seeking those he would devour. But still, his aim is not to wield pain, but to deceive. To whisper. Curse the God who forgave you. This is what the war looks like today. Ordinary. It looks like keyboard warriors and hypocrite parents, circled wagons and struggling institutions. Sinners casting blame in a world full of conflict but short of awe. And the blood of the lamb that gives victory. Given here. Today. For you.
So today we fight. Satan would turn our eyes from the blood of the lamb. Focus us on each other. Hear his temptations. “Call the world your enemy. Ignore the God who died for them. Call each other the problem. Ignore the sin in yourself. Whatever you do, don’t look to the Spiritual war won in plain sight. Don’t look to the cross.” He’s desperate. Because here, all his power comes undone.
The cross is the power that drove satan from heaven. Forgiveness, won there for sinners, for you, shuts his mouth. He cannot accuse you anymore. So fight. Not in an imaginary battle, but in plain sight. Right here. In the face of the fear and shame and guilt, he would whisper to you, lay claim to each sin. Remind him of the ones you did he forgot about. “I a poor miserable sinner confess all my sins and iniquities.” Then make the sign of the cross and remind him Christ died for you. This is the might behind St. Michael’s spear. Satan lost. Christ won. And you fight with the angels on his side. This is the hope that puts a lump in the throat of Christian soldiers who limp more than march. Christ has won the war. St. Michael doesn’t show you how ordinary the war is, but how extraordinary the cross is. And that cross is for you. It knocked satan from heaven and gave preachers the power to trample over the demon hoard with absolving words of peace. In the stead and by the command of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I forgive you this and all your sins.