“O THE SHEER JOY OF IT”
“Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy…” (Ps. 43:4)
INTRO.: A hymn which expresses the exceeding joy that we can find in God is “O the Sheer Joy of It.” The text was written by Ralph Spaulding Cushman, who was born at Poultney, VT, on Nov. 12, 1879, the son of Earl Allerton and Nellie Honey Cushman. Graduating from Troy Conference Academy at Poultney in 1898, he attended Wesleyan University and graduated with a Ph.B. in 1902. That same year he married Maude Hammond, and they had two children, Mabel Elizabeth, who later married Insley J. Stiles, and Robert Earl. Although Cushman’s father and grandfather were Congregational ministers, he joined the New England Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Later, he did graduate study in Edinburgh and London, then received the D.D. and LL.D. from Wesleyan and the Litt.D. from Hamline. His early ministerial work was done in Bryantville, MA, from 1902 to 1904; Acushnet, MA, from 1904 to 1906; Danielson, CN, from 1906 to 1911; Fall River, MA, from 1911 to 1915; and Geneva, NY, from 1915 to 1917. After this, he worked with the Centenary Commission from 1917 to 1919, and with the Interchurch World Movement from 1919 to 1920, after which he resumed ministerial work at Rochester, NY, from 1920 to 1932. Elected bishop in 1932, he served in Denver, CO, from 1932 to 1939, and in Minnesota from 1930 to 1952. The author of some 25 books on the subjects of evangelism, stewardship, and prayer, he was also a poet.
Perhaps his best known poem, from Spiritual Hilltops in 1932, is “The Secret.”
“I met God in the morning, When my day was at its best,
And His Presence came like sunrise Like a glory in my breast.
All day long the Presence lingered, All day long He stayed with me,
And we sailed in perfect calmness O’er a very troubled sea.
Other ships were blown and battered, Other ships were sore distressed,
But the winds that seemed to drive them Brought to us a peace and rest.
Then I though of other moorings, With a keen remorse of mind,
When I too had loosed the moorings, With the Presence left behind.
So I think I know the secret, Learned from many a troubled way:
You must seek Him in the morning If you want Him through the day.”
After retiring in 1952, Cushman lived for a time at Raleigh, NC, and died at Herkimer, NY, on Aug. 19, 1960. I have been unable to find a date or source for “O the Sheer Joy of It.” Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the text, marked “Author Unknown,” appeared in the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater with a new tune (Joel) composed by the editor. Another tune (Bayswater) that can be adapted for use with the hymn was composed by Charles Henry Purday (1794-1885).
The song discusses several concepts about our relationship with the Lord that can bring joy.
I. Stanza 1 talks about living with the Lord
“O the sheer joy of it, Living with Thee
Lord of the universe, God of the tree,
Maker of mountains and Lover of me.”
A. God wants us to live by faith: Rom. 1:17
B. He is the Lord of the universe because He created the heaven and the earth: Gen. 1:1
C. Not only is He the maker of mountains but He loves us all: Jn. 3:16
II. Stanza 2 talks about breathing God’s air
“O the sheer joy of it, Breathing Thy air;
Morning is dawning now, Gone every care;
All the world’s singing that God’s everywhere.”
A. It was God who created the firmament which includes the atmosphere containing the air which we breathe: Gen. 1:6-8
B. Thus, when we awaken with the dawn of each morning, we can know that every care is gone as we cry to Him for help and hope in His word: Ps. 119:147
C. Also, we can sing with the whole world that the presence of God is everywhere: Ps. 139:7-12
III. Stanza 3 talks about walking with God
“O the sheer joy of it, Walking with Thee
High on the mountaintop, Down by the sea.
Life is so wonderful, Life is so free.”
A. To walk with God is to walk in the light: Jn. 1:5-7
B. We can do this whether on the mountaintop or down by the sea because God created it all: Ps. 33:6-9, 90:1-2
C. Life is so wonderful because in Christ God has made it possible for us to have life and have it more abundantly: Jn. 10:10
IV. Stanza 4 talks about working with God
“O the sheer joy of it, Working with God,
Running His errands and Waiting His nod,
Building His heaven on Our common sod.”
A. God not only wants us to walk with Him but also to work with Him in this world: Eph. 2:10
B. To do this, we must run His errands and wait for His nod: Ps. 110:32, 130:5
C. In doing this, we are building His heaven, in the sense of helping to make others right with Him and thus developing in them the desire for heaven, on our common sod: Heb. 11:16
CONCL.: Another of Cushman’s well known poems is this:
“Set us afire, Lord, Stir us, we pray!
While the world perishes, We go our way,
Purposeless, passionless, Day after day.
Set us afire, Lord, Stir us, we pray!”
As we consider all the wonderful things that God has placed here on this earth for us to enjoy, coupled with the blessedness of having a personal relationship with our Creator through His Son Jesus Christ, we are moved to say, “O the Sheer Joy of It.”