Address at the dedication of plaque to John Graham (“Araucaria”) in Somersham Church

Is there a Crossword Hall of Fame? If so, one Revd John Galbraith Graham, a.k.a. Araucaria, must certainly be in it. But what about a Crossword Heaven? Even most addicted solver might tire if eternal life was just an endless series of crosswords to solve.

But a place of solution in a broader sense, of resolution; a place where – aha – suddenly everything makes sense. Now that is something else, something more, something I certainly am longing for. There is so much in life this side of the grave, in our own personal lives as John knew and you too know, and in the wider life of the world, so much that is unresolved, problematic, a right old monkey puzzle in fact, complete with prickles.

And yet, we see an order, a sort of design in life as well. We see that there is a difference between order and chaos, truth and falsehood, beauty and ugliness, love and hate – even if the boundary is sometimes hard to pin down or agree on, and even if some people make it their business to deliberately confuse it.

And that means that I, and John as his continuing loyal service as a priest that we commemorate today as well as all the crosswording, and that you too perhaps cannot just throw the newspaper of life away, and call it an April’s Fool, a puzzle with no answer, no meaning no purpose. Even if John did love to tease and mislead in his clueing, there always remained that penny drop moment when you realised that for instance the whole of a clue referring to one Christmas Carol was in fact an anagram of the first line of another.

So John, and I, and perhaps you might dare to believe that what the Heralds Harked to, and the Shepherds Watched, was an aha moment of a cosmic order, when not just a solution but a salvation was starting to be revealed, and thank God for that.

But although the penny has dropped, the puzzle for us in this life is not yet fully solved, and to be a priest in a place with the deepest of faiths is not to purport to have all the answers, even for an erudite brainbox like John. Rather, it is to be one who points to the possibility of answers, who proclaims good news, but often in an as yet half-hidden way. And not as an act of cleverness, but as an act of compassion and love.

It is as John showed about standing alongside people, as a pastor and teacher, in life and in death. As a witness and encourager to them, as they work out the solution for themselves, even if in fear and trembling, as the good book says, until the days comes when the last solution falls into place, the community finds its soul and its peace, and we find our own true selves in God. When we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ

Solution and salvation: two sides perhaps of one coin. Araucaria and the Revd Mr Graham were after all one and the same. And as we remember him in both his guises, and dedicate this plaque so that others may do so in the years to come, perhaps we and they will sense his accompanying presence still, as we seek solutions, as we seek salvation.