Tribute to a friend – Pastor James Haak
As I turn the soil, ready to plant my summer vegetable garden I have a reminder of my friend James Haak. Wow, James is reputed to have had a bigger and more productive ‘veggie garden’ in this same soil! The comparison is something which comes when one serves where a friend has previously been the Pastor.
James and I have been friends for many years.
Friends who would have a chat, maybe enjoy an ale or wine (depending on the situation), and encourage each other to bear up under the strain and challenges of Parish Ministry.
James had some talents with which God had fitted him out. Like, he had a sharp mind, with a penetrating dry wit, accompanied by a deep theological astuteness of which I stood in awe. It was he who during our seminary days had explained the distinctions between Forensic Justification and Imputed Justification offering the assurance that it is “All God’s Grace and we can be thankful for that!”. I was somewhat comfortable having James around who could get to the bottom of theological arguments while I could be glad to “Rejoice in the Joy of Salvation!” – assured I was on the right track! James’ heart for people to know the truth of their Salvation is something I saw as important, in whom James was and the manner he loyally served his Lord Jesus through the LCA. James was a Parish Pastor who could guide things through the big picture context which eventually saw him heed the call to serve as Bishop for the NSW District.
I respect the role he undertook under CTICR to help people listen and respectfully work through the issues surrounding the matter of Women’s Ordination. He wasn’t in the business of making people feel stupid or inadequate, but to have them know that they are loved by Jesus, their Lord and Saviour .
Our family paths crossed with weddings and funerals and other celebrations.
Yes, we stood as Bestman for each other (two weeks apart – almost 35 years ago!) and James officiated at my youngest son’s wedding on Fraser Island a couple of years ago! That was an occasion where James made sure his trusty cameras were in his luggage and natures wonders were in his lens sights. Some of his landscape photos he had had enlarged and framed, are truly a sight to behold – they are the fruits of his other loves of tramping the bush and seeing the world.
Family is always something I associate the heart of James with…His love for Marie and his children Aiden (& Paris) and “Annie”. – and the huskies!! Aiden helped bring out the leadership qualities in James when a coach/manager was needed for his Junior Soccer Team…..and Dad stepped up to the mark! Annie stretched her father’s heart when she was hospitalised for a while as a young child following injury in a car crash. James also learnt from this what it was to have his Parish people provide Pastoral Care for him, rather than he being the care provider.
Families provide other shaping and self-defining moments – like standing at the graveside of family members who died before him. We seemed to do a fair bit of this!
Sharing his faith and Conviction in the Grace of Jesus Christ unto eternal life, I still have had to weather the shock which James’ sudden death brought to my heart – but it means I do not grieve with despair. I know full well that we’ll see each other later, whenever the Lord will bring us together again in heaven.
Till then, I remember his resolute barracking for Hawthorn, his erudite teaching and explaining of theology, a big grin behind the long lens of his camera and the final farewell hug of a mate as we departed the 2018 LCA Synod!