Before he spoke a word of his Sunday sermon, Max Lucado received a standing ovation at Trinity on the Hill United Methodist Church.
More than 1,500 people came to hear the pastor and author preach at the two Sunday morning services of the church, off Monte Sano Avenue.
During the Sunday school hour, Lucado sat in a stuffed arm chair to read one of his more than 50 books to the children, who gathered at his feet.
His daughter, Andrea Lucado, sang a duet with the church’s Katy Boatman.
The girls, who both work in book publishing, are roommates in Nashville, Tenn., and were the catalyst for Lucado’s visit.
Before Sunday, the two had only sung together once.
The Rev. Dan Brown, the pastor of Trinity on the Hill, kept his introduction short to give Lucado more time to preach.
“He’s the real deal. He really is,” Brown said of Lucado, who was named America’s Pastor by Christianity Today in 2004. “What he has is the grace indwelling in him that he shares with others.”
Grace was the theme of Lucado’s sermon, titled “What Happens When Grace Happens?” Lucado read from John 8 and mixed in self-deprecating humor and anecdotes from his home church, Oak Hills in San Antonio, while teaching.
John 8 tells the story of an adulterous woman, who, according to the law of Moses, should be stoned.
Instead, Jesus says he does not condemn her and tells her accusers, “Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.”
“He comes between the accusers and the accused,” Lucado said.
“He speaks for you, just as he spoke for that woman. He offers unending intercession for you. Everything he did for the woman, he does for you.”
Sunday wasn’t Lucado’s first visit to Augusta.
About 10 years ago, golfer Scott Simpson invited him to the Masters Tournament. The pastor caddied for Simpson during the Par-3 Contest that week.
“He didn’t have to ask me twice,” Lucado said with a laugh.
Both around town and at the church, Lucado said he was grateful for the warm welcome he’s received.
“If I ever do a series of messages on hospitality,” he said, “I’m going to come to Trinity on the Hill to study.”